Due to forced inactivity, I have found myself watching more television in the past four months than normal. When your doctor says you have to sit and heal, television is one option that an “invalid” has in order to pass time. As I have watched countless hours of tv, I have paid my share of attention to the mind manipulation that advertisers use to sell products. I have always been interested in persuasion. I found it challenging in my teaching career to instruct speakers about how they could persuade audiences.
Consumer persuasion via television is a different “animal”, relying mostly on the inadequacy of the viewing audience. W. Bingham Hunter* feels that this type of persuasion may be directly related to our lack of gratitude for what God has given us in our lives.
Media advertisers show us the flat abs that we can have if we just purchase the six hundred dollar piece of exercise equipment. We look at our abs and they aren’t flat but the fitness model has a trim stomach. We want flat abs so we pick up the phone and order the equipment. The “supercool” movie star is seen driving the luxury car on water, no less. He is so relaxed; he never makes a quick move. Everything is in slow motion. Wow, we would like to have such control in our lives. Maybe we need to investigate purchasing that automobile and we will be like him. Our lives are such a contrast to his.
We can go on and on but you get the point. In our consumer-driven world, we are made to feel insecure. We don’t have the best clothing, we don’t take the best vacations, and we lack personal beauty. We compare ourselves to others and we are lacking.
The sad thing is, once we buy a life-changing product, nothing much changes. A purchase is not going to change our lives. There has to be something else out there that we need to have.
There is a constant feeling that we lack something.
Where can we find the gratitude we should have for what we already have?
We have lost it because we feel constantly dissatisfied. What we do have is never enough. Hunter even goes so far as to say that some may feel “God has not been doing as much for us as He should have.” We look around at others who are not doing as much good as we are and they are getting blessed; why not me?
Couple this with consumer temptation and the relative ease we have to accumulate debt and we feel we can do what we want to feel better about ourselves. Just call up the handy number or click on the website, enter the credit card number and wait for the packages to come to your door. I don’t have to depend on God for my satisfaction. I can take care of myself.
Once the objects of our desire are purchased, the “look at me” temptation comes into play. We feel pride in our new outfit, power in our new car and increased status in our new home. We need the attention. We work hard. We are good Christians. We deserve the materialistic blessings.
Where is God in all of this?
Proverbs 3:6 and John 3:27 acknowledge God in the activity of life. When we hear the words “ in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” and “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven,” we hear the true reason for our blessing and it has nothing to do with television ads and credit card plastic.
It has to do with the humble heart that the Christian should have.
Hunter says “The spirit of our age—especially much modern advertising—actively wars within our minds against the spirit of thankfulness” . People become objects instead of unique creatures of God. Inner beauty takes second place to the glamour of outward beauty. God given skills and abilities are demeaned in favor of what can be purchased.
Psalms 100:3 should be at the forefront of a Christians mind: “Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” We must be aware of mind manipulation. Maybe it is good to be content with God’s gifts.
What He supplies is sufficient…
*Author of The God Who Hears