The Thanksgiving Day Dilemma: To Shop or Not to Shop? That is the Question

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On Facebook, I’ve seen petitions for businesses to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day to allow people to stay home and spend time with their families.  Businesses, they claim, are only open to make more money.  They’re greedy and heartless.  It’s called “Black Thursday” because of the blackness of their hearts (not because the sales will help their businesses stay in the black).

On the other hand, I’ve heard arguments that since we live in a capitalist society, we recognize that businesses are in the business of making money.  So, for them, they are doing what they need to do to make money, which creates jobs, and eventually helps to keep families financially secure.

On both sides, there are passionate people who mean well and who have excellent points on their sides of the arguments (of which I’m sure I have not done them justice in the least bit).  So what are we to do with this?  “To shop or not to shop?”  That is the question. But it’s not the only question.  The other question is this:  “To judge or not to judge?”

Here are some summary conclusions I have come up with to address these questions.

Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial”  (1 Cor 10:23).  The context of this verse has to do with eating meat sacrificed to idols.  Some said it is OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols because the “earth is Lord’s and everything in it,” so we do not have to be concerned about eating such meat because it is the Lord’s meat.  Others had said that since the meat was sacrificed to idols, we should not eat it because it was sacrificed to an idol and not to God.  Paul is stating that all meat is OK to eat, yet if you push someone to do what they are not convinced of in their conscience, then you cause them to sin (or go against their conscience).  Do what is for the good of the other person and do everything for the Glory of God.

TO SHOP:

In applying these verses to shopping on Thanksgiving, I see it as a matter of conscience.  Businesses have the right to be open on holidays and they do so to make money and pay their employees. Which is what businesses are supposed to do.  This can help families financially (which is beneficial) and may even be considered being good stewards of the money God has given (In this way, one may say it is for the glory of God).  Shoppers looking for deals can also take advantage of these times to pay less for more (while admitting that Christmas is really not about great deals or gifts, but the gift of Christ.  The tradition of giving gifts can hardly be ignored.  Though if you wish to try it, let me know how that goes).  There are 364 other days of the year to spend time with family that one can take advantage of and should.

If a believer (or non-believer) wishes to shop on Thanksgiving, they should not be looked down upon or considered greedy, a bad Christian, or any other negative judgment that comes to mind.  It is permissible to shop on Thanksgiving and it may even be financially beneficial, too (though perhaps not in family time together).  It is this person’s responsibility, however, not to force someone or judge someone who does not believe that shopping on Thanksgiving is OK.  If it is against their conscience, you would be encouraging them to sin.  It is their choice to make.  

One final note: If you shop on Thanksgiving (or anytime, really), it is always important to ask yourselves if you are shopping for the glory of God?  Do these purchases reflect my heart’s desire to please Him, honor Him, love my neighbor, etc.?  Or are these purchases about “me?”  Are they about my wants and needs to feed my own desires for people to like me, love me, think I’m the greatest because of gifts, or take pride in great deals and saving money?  If it’s about me, then it’s not for God’s glory.

NOT TO SHOP:

The one who chooses to make a stand against shopping on Thanksgiving is also following their conscience and chooses to do so often for family’s sake.  They choose to take this time to spend with family, prepare meals, clean up, play games, and do whatever with family.  With the busyness and craziness of life, Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to get together with family and spend quality time with them.  Businesses being open, however, threatens time with family, especially when loved ones must work.  The fear is that businesses being open will make Thanksgiving Day like any other day, threatening an important tradition of family time.  It is no wonder why so many are upset.  Yet, to look down upon or judge those who shop would also be sin.  Do not make the Thanksgiving shoppers feel guilty for what they do as it is their decision to make within their own conscience.  “For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?”  (I Cor 10:29b).  We can disagree with businesses and with Thanksgiving shoppers, but let’s not look down on them.

One final note:  If you choose not to shop on Thanksgiving, are you staying home for the glory of God?  Are you staying home to cook, clean, earn the love and appreciation from others or to watch football, take pride in the family you have – yet you are present in body but not in mind and heart? Or are you staying home to love God in showing appreciation to Him by loving and serving your family and friends who join you, involving yourself in discussion and relationship?

MY DECISION THIS YEAR:

As for my family, we will be remaining home to spend time with one another.  Family time for me is a value that takes priority over financial savings at this point in my life.  Next year could be different if the financial savings take priority and I can designate a few hours of family time on another day (after or before the family dinner, of course).  

I greatly respect Cathy Truitt who has the right to have his businesses (Chic-Fil-A) open on Sundays, but chooses to close them based on values and conscience. He lives with the consequences of less money, but his conscience is clear before God.  Other Christian businesses don’t have the same business conviction about Sundays (though perhaps a personal one, meaning they take off one day per week as a day of rest and unto the Lord) and they also have clear consciences,  but neither look down upon the other.  

Whatever we decide, may our personal decisions be in line with our consciences and we choose not to look down  upon others who do not have the same convictions.

Extra Innings

There is excitement when you’re watching your favorite sports team battle for a win, but when it gets into extra innings, you’re on the edge of your seat, especially if your team is the underdog.  You know that every moment and every play matter, because soon the game will be over, and you will either come out on top or be defeated and disappointed.  I’d like to share with you a brief personal story of a person whose life went into extra innings…where every moment counted…where the chances of being victorious were slim to none…but in the end, who came out on top.  This person is my grandmother, Muriel Dietrich.

On Thursday, November 10, 2011, my grandmother went to be with the Lord.  She lived to be 91 years of age and battled cancer for 56 years.  Her life was a testimony of faith, perseverance, thanksgiving, and love.  When first diagnosed with cancer, the doctors gave her about 5 years to live.  The cancer started in her lungs and moved towards her neck to the base of her skull.  Through surgeries, chemo, periods of remission, and additional doctor’s visits throughout the next 56 years, the doctors continued to limit her life span to years or even months…yet she kept going, baffling the doctors and their false predictions.  Her attitude was “I’m going to give it to God and keep living”.  And she did.

Throughout the years, especially the past few years as her health began to deteriorate (but also throughout her life), she expressed thanksgiving to God for allowing her to live when the doctors said that she would not.  She would often state how God had seen her through, how blessed she was to have two wonderful daughters who have two wonderful partners.  She would state how blessed she was to have upstanding grandchildren who chose wonderful spouses.  Sometimes, she would say how great my wife was so often that I would wonder if she loved my wife more than me!

I believe that the cancer she fought had a large impact on her perspective on life.  She knew that she was living on borrowed time, in extra innings, and that the extra time was a gift to her from God to see her family grow in numbers, in faith, and in love for her and one another.  Upon every visit, she would share some stories of the past, but would always share how blessed she was for living a long life.

Though eventually the cancer took her life, she did not lose in those extra innings.  No, she had won.  When facing the cancer, she said she would “give it to God and keep on living.”  When considering her heart & soul, she said the same thing.  “I’m going to give it to God and keep on living.”  Death would not be the end, because she had given her life to Christ.  She had accepted his sacrifice for her sins on the cross.  In living, her life belonged to Him.  In dying, her life belonged to Him.  In death, her life remains in Him and with Him.  Since she had made this decision to accept Christ’s death and resurrection, her life remains connected to His.  She will keep on living…and not just in our hearts and in our memories, but with Christ in heaven.  No, death through cancer is not a victory for cancer.  Cancer could not separate her from His love or His presence.

If we think about it…we are all in extra innings.  Our lives will be nearing an end (some closer than others).  Our time on earth is “like a vapor.”  Each of us lives under the common grace that He gives us, allowing us time to spend with loved ones and time to come near to Him….Since we cannot win in extra innings by ourselves, we need someone who will win it for us.  We need a God who loves us so much that He will provide a way for our weak selves to have victory over a stronger opponent (death).  We need Christ.  Now all we have to do is “give our lives to God and then keep on living.”