Riding on the coat tails of yesterday's post about TV commercials, I wanted to talk a bit more in this vein regarding the destructive ways in which we train ourselves to think. One of the frustrations with blogging is that you are not writing books, and often a day's thoughts are insufficient to tackle the subject. This is most certainly true with regards to this whole issue of the American consumerist mentality and how we as modern westerners can fight to innoculate ourselves and our children against these destructive cultural patterns.
We are sinners because we were born in sin; all of us. And as sinners, every part of us is affected in some way by sin. By God's grace, our souls are not given over to this corrupt nature completely, but those of us who are Christians and are raising covenant children face three great enemies, classically identified by Martin Luther as The World, The Flesh, and The Devil. These three great enemies conspire together to frustrate the sanctification of believers, and they also conspire to keep our children out of the Kingdom.
My previous post focusing on advertising really points to one small strategy of our enemies. In advertising, The World becomes an ally of our Flesh, encouraging its sinful passions, desires, and tendencies to worship created things rather than the creator Himself. Advertising cannot make us do bad things. It cannot create new desires, per se. All that advertising can do is lean down to that flame of sin within us and blow on the coals, fanning flames in our stomach to misdirect our desires in sinful ways, fanning our propensity to covet, and reinforcing our already sinful belief (which we are born with) that the desires we have are natural and good and worthy of finding fulfillment.
In many ways, our desires are good. In fact, at their root, all of our natural desires have a God-given outlet by which they can be expressed in a God-honoring way. For example, our hunger can glorify God if we eat in a way that is worthy and which reflects a regard for God as the source of our "daily bread." Our sex-drives were designed by God for use within our marriages, and when they are used in that way, we will find that even our sexual desire is good.
So what of advertising? Let me propose that there is one difference between the virtuous enjoyment of our desires and the inordinate exercise of those desires: godly contentment. If we are content with our station in life, with our possessions, with our wife, with our family, with our situation, as Paul exhorted us in 1 Tim. 6:6-8, and we have godliness, then we can experience "great gain." Advertising, by its nature, is meant to strip us of our contentment; for if we are content, then its message is dull and falls on deaf ears.
Advertising comes from The World as one of the greatest modern obstacles to contentment, and as such conspires with our flesh to lead us away from "godliness with contentment." If we lack Godliness and we lack contentment, then we experience "jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions," according to 1 Tim. 6:4. Now, the World assaults the Christian from every angle and at all times, and it would be wrong for me to give the impression that advertising is the Christian's great enemy. It is only one infantryman in the great battle. But this infantryman lives in our houses and pines constantly for our attention, and is unceasingly pushing itself in our faces.
Even in houses without any television or internet, sin will show its ugly face in one form or another. For example, if we think that Amish people do not experience jealousy or greed, then we're simply blind to the Bible's teaching about human nature. After all, sin has been around since the fall. Recently, we've invented these new ways to sin and make sanctification a greater challenge. But as Romans 1:30 demonstrates, there is nothing new in humanity's creative invention of ways of sinning.
In the end, Luther has the answer: "Nothing is more effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts than to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it and meditate on it."