Hope > Hysteria

Zach Farrar (Community Groups Coordinator)

There’s nothing quite like being under budget, right? Seriously, when my wife and I sit down every month and figure out where all our money is going (groceries, gas, doctor visits, mortgage payments, light bills, etc.), we always like to pad things a little bit. Has it been a little chilly? We’ll plan on having a higher than average electric bill. Nothing about that sounds really abnormal – but maybe the feeling of exhilaration I feel when we come in under budget is a little weird. Or maybe that’s normal too. I tend to chalk it up to wanting to conquer things as a man and wanting to provide well for my family.

I also enjoy having that extra $30 to spend…on myself.

While some of you may think I’m nuts, let’s be honest with each other – we love a good deal on something we need. Whether it’s the electric bill or new camo for duck season. Maybe it’s a flat screen TV. These new “necessities” and new toys are always that much more enjoyable when we’ve saved some cash along the way. And I don’t think anything is wrong with that.

It’s a good thing to be frugal and to live within our means. The Bible encourages us and even honors people who live within their means (Proverbs 10:16, 22:7, 31:16). While each month we go through a budgeting exercise, often at the holidays we tend to forget these lessons.

Exhibit A - Black Friday

Exhibit A for this mental cash game? Black Friday.

Personally, I don’t have anything against Black Friday. In some ways it has become somewhat of a funny cultural staple. Polish off the Thanksgiving meal, take a long nap, watch some football, and go hunt for a great deal on a kayak, or a deer stand, or some new clothes. If the deals don’t get you out the Friday after Thanksgiving, the people watching will. Indeed, half of holiday shoppers buy their Christmas presents the weekend following Thanksgiving, helping businesses small and large, rake in about $50.9 billion last year alone.  And these aren’t bad things – commerce and business are good. Finding deals isn’t bad either.

The hysteria that comes with Black Friday is the problem.

As November progresses, the news coverage begins. For many of us, we begin asking ourselves, what can I get this Black Friday? It’s not that we need something or even have some new toy that we’ve been eyeing for awhile. A lot of times it’s totally unnecessary.

'But it's on sale!'

That’s our excuse for blowing a ton of cash. Granted, a lot of that cash is spent buying gifts for other people – an admirable and fun endeavor. But there’s also those completely unnecessary purchases that aren’t for anyone but ourselves. Do I really need a new set of golf clubs? Or a treadmill that’s 40% off? Or a new GoPro? Probably not. “But it’s on sale!”, our world and hearts scream. And with no real purpose in mind, many unwitting Americans – many of us – will go out this Black Friday not hunting for a legitimate deal for something we need or have been saving up for, but because of a cultural hysteria that we have been duped by. We have bought the cultural lie that more stuff is better than less stuff. Even the stuff we don’t need (or want).

Exchanging Hysteria For Hope

We’ve all felt that urge when we go out to spend money – the cash just seems to burn a hole in our pocket. Sometimes it’s just to spend money to feel strong. Sufficient. Powerful. Like ‘I’m good enough’. And when things are tight and maybe I can’t get everything I “want”, then the hysteria and drive to figure out how to make it work really sets in.

But more stuff isn’t the answer. Proverbs says it simply:

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous flourish like a green leaf.
(Proverbs 11:28)

The answer to our hysterical materialism isn’t making or spending more money. It’s righteousness. In quieter, more honest moments, we all recognize something is terribly deficient in ourselves. Something inside has gone awry. We try to fill that deep need and brokenness with stuff. With job security. With investment portfolios and holiday bonuses. With Black Friday.

But our spiritual problem cannot be fixed with material things. Which is why, a lot of times, we see hysterical, near manic shopping on Black Friday. Materialism is a grasping of the human heart for stability, for security, for right standing before God. But we all know it will fail us just as all material things fail us. And so we are restless.

This is not a new problem for the human heart. Nearly two millennia ago, church leader, writer, and pastor, Augustine of Hippo recognized this deep problem in our hearts and said simply:

“You have made us for yourselves, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

So what’s the antidote to the hysteria and madness of materialism on Black Friday? The hope that the Lord provides for us in Jesus. A hope that meets us where our need is deepest – our hearts. It is the hope that God has endeavored and labored to give us His righteousness, His goodness, while taking our sin and its punishment. Why? So that we might once again be in His family. And perhaps the most hopeful part of all this staggering plan is that we do not have to work for it. There is no mad scramble to secure our salvation or make sure we have enough. When we trust and follow Jesus, He has promised that He is enough. As the Bible tells us:

“All this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation,” (2 Cor. 5:19).

So this Black Friday and Cyber Monday we can all take a deep breath. Our most foundational and important relationship with God is not based on whether or not we have enough stuff. It’s not based on whether or not we are successful or have the newest toys. It’s not based on us at all. Our hope and rescue is based on the gift of God to us through Jesus Christ. The gift that, in the words of Augustine, finally allows our restless hearts to find their home and rest in our Creator. His gift provides us with true and everlasting hope. Hope that does not rust, decay, wrinkle, or wear out. Hope that is in God Himself. Hope that replaces hysteria with peace and a relationship with God.

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Post Series: Give Hope 2015

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