My local newspaper once ran two very short articles, both of which were intriguing enough on their own, but when viewed together they told a story that pierced my conscience.
The first story predicted that annual spending for global advertising would increase 3.5 percent to $447.5 billion dollars. The article noted that this growth was strong everywhere, but especially in North America and Western Europe.
The second article reported that Bangladesh’s prime minister blasted the garment industry in his country for paying “inhumanly low wages.”
This article explained that workers in the 4,000 factories in Bangladesh are unable to pay for food or shelter on their monthly earnings of $25 per month. These factories export their products primarily to the United States and Europe.
The juxtaposition of these articles brought to my mind a talk given by Shane Hipps at the Q conference in Austin, Texas.
Mr. Hipps was at one time a strategic planner in advertising. His job was to identify ways to market very expensive brands; brands that evoke both an image and an emotional response; brands that provide the consumer with a sense of value.
In his Q talk, he explained that his job was to find ways to identify consumers’ hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities and offer a brand as the solution to the deeper hurts of our lives and as a symbol of achieving our dreams. On his blog, Mr. Hipps writes:
“Advertising is fundamentally a form of coercion…the primary task of my previous life was to try and highjack your imagination, brand your brain with a Porsche logo, and then feed you opinions you thought were your own. I can’t think of a method more opposed to the process of deepening and evolving the spiritual life.”
Interesting isn’t it? Think about what that $447.5 billion will be spent on. It won’t be spent healing people of the wounds they carry around with them as citizens of a fallen world; actually I believe it will be spent to exacerbate them.
Rather than helping people find their value in the fact that the God of the universe thought them up before time and loved them enough to choose death and rejection on a cross rather than to be separated from them, it tells them that the lies of our culture that say, “you don’t fit in, you’re not good enough, that you have to prove yourself and your worth” are true.
It says that the only way you can justify your worth in this world is to buy a luxury car, or fine jewelry, or a bigger house. The lie that your value as a person is based on the value of what you own could not possibly be further from the truth of the gospel.
The bottom line is this: advertisers will spend $447.5 billion dollars this year to convince people with disposable income that they don’t have enough. Meanwhile, 1.4 billion people are currently living on less than $1.25 a day. They really don’t have enough, and because of that millions of them will die.
This message is harmful and wrong to the spiritual lives of those living in the developed world who will strive to achieve costly things at the expense of sitting at Jesus’ feet, but it is absolutely devastating to those trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.
It confirms what the world and their circumstance already tell them, that they are worthless.
And that is a lie.
It is a lie from hell that not only devastates the poor in their current state, but robs them of hope for the future because it obscures the truth of how valuable and precious they are in God’s sight, now and always.
So the decision about where you find your worth is actually a very real one. It’s a decision to either believe those who would spend billions to “hijack” your mind or to believe Jesus Christ, the one who died to pay your ransom and set you free.
It’s a decision that will impact the rest of your life, and likely the lives of many you have never even met. It’s a decision that will either advance the Kingdom of God or the kingdoms of this world. There is no in between. So choose well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christopher Delvaille works as a senior strategy and planning advisor at Compassion’s Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.