November 28, 2000
The average North American is exposed to 1500 commercial messages a day. That means if I turn off my radio and do not watch any television today and someone gets my share, they will hear or see an advertisement every twelve seconds. Who can withstand that barrage? Little wonder we are a nation of consumers!
A college course in the methods of advertising taught me that ads almost always appeal to three things. The first is a desire for comfort. That desire draws our attention to ads for clothing, furniture, and vacations.
The second appeals to a desire for power, otherwise known as “if you have more money, more stuff, a bigger car, sweeter breath, more insurance or the best computer, you will be more powerful, more in control of your life.”
The third category is ego. “Build your sense of worth and competence by owning _____ , or belong to ________ , or doing ______ .” (You fill in the blanks.)
Advertising is powerful. We see how it sells products and ideas (ideas as in political campaigns). If advertising did not work, vast sums of money would be put to better use and our time would be freed up for other pursuits. Perhaps those are the reasons that the Bible warns us to watch out for the three-fold appeal in commercials.
Oh, of course the biblical writers did not know about television, bill boards, or spam. Nevertheless, God knows our nature and inspired these words: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. . . . For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2).
In this passage, ‘world’ is not a geographical place. It is not the people either, as in “for God so loved the world.” Instead, this passage talks about a system of thought, a value system that is focused on worldly and temporary things. This system is not from God and is sinful.
The lust of the flesh means an inordinate desire to satisfy physical desires. It is not merely eating but gluttony, not marital sex but illicit sex, not keeping warm and dry but having more than you need at the expense of others.
King David of Israel gave in to the lust of the flesh when he saw Bathsheba from his rooftop, wanted her, and used his power as king to murder her husband and take her for himself.
The lust of the eyes is wanting everything you see, not because you need it but to have a sense of power, even power over those who do not have it. It is being strong and successful as measured by personal property, control, and bank statements.
The world considers wealthy people influential and powerful. Because they use their money and possessions to get what they want, others are impressed by them and their assets. This lust of the eyes works for criminals and mobsters, business men, and even the woman next door.
The pride of life is whatever makes people think they are better than others. This means going for whatever will do that, not for their own sake but to make an impression. It might be money, big house, educational degrees or knowing all the ‘right’ people. This “keeping up with the Jones” is fueled by an inflated human ego.
God says “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. . . . The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Those who know and live by the love of God are able to turn away from these three reasons for responding to commercials.
Lord, may I never see or hear another commercial message without considering the reason it appeals to me. I might need toothpaste today and a new car tomorrow, but when I go shopping, may my motives for buying not be bent by excessive worldly desires. Remind me often that advertising is only for temporary things. They will fade away and the body I pamper and the friends I try to impress will not be an issue. When I stand alone before You, all that matters is whether my life is governed by Your great love — not sinful motivations.