“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11, ESV)
We are discontent. Yet, we have bigger houses filled with more stuff. We have technology at our disposal that our ancestors could never have imagined. But we are more unhappy than ever before. Why is that? What is at the heart of this discontentment?
I recently heard that the average American is exposed to more than 3000 advertisements in a single day. That is more advertisements than our ancestors would have encountered in a lifetime.
I turn on my computer and open a website only to see an ad for a new guitar I bought last month. How did they know I had an interest in buying a guitar? They know more about you than you realize! There is big money in advertising. The tactics have grown more sophisticated than ever before.
When you log on to Google and Facebook, you need to realize that you are not the customer. You are the product. The advertisers are the customers to whom Google and Facebook sell your time and attention. Their goal is not to help you lead a more meaningful life, but to provide the best service they can to their customers, the advertisers. Jesus talks about wolves in sheep’s clothes. These are definitely modern examples of such.
So much of our leisure time is spent on our phones and television. The tech industry has engineered the technology to appeal to some of our deepest cravings to keep our eyes glued to our screens. The deck is stacked against us making it difficult to have a healthy relationship with social media. I am growing more convinced that the only way to have a healthy relationship with social media is to not have a relationship with it.
We are exposed to the advertising that tells us our lives are incomplete. The goal of advertising is not to make us feel better about ourselves, but to create discontent in our lives. Advertising moves us to open our wallets by creating dissatisfaction with our current circumstance. It presents the solution as buying the product. But it demands more than our money. It calls for our souls.
Convinced of our discontent, we buy more in the hope to bring more fulfillment and contentment to our lives. But that does not work. So we go and buy more, but that only leaves us more empty. So we buy even more. It’s an endless cycle that leaves us with homes and lives full of stuff, but empty hearts.
The Apostle Paul said he learned the secret of contentment. It is not found in having more things. It is not found in following the advice of advertisements. The secret of contentment is abiding in a relationship with Jesus alone.
It is impossible to totally eliminate our exposure to advertisements, but we can recognize it for what it is. We can recognize the false promises put forth and that the real truth is found in Christ.