Whether it’s Iceland promising to remove rainforest-destroying palm oil from their products, Gillette changing their slogan to ‘the best men can be’, or BP launching a huge campaign focused on renewable energy, there seems to be an interesting shift in advertising recently.
Companies seem to be focusing less on the products they sell and more on promoting their brand as one that ‘cares’. And while this seems like a positive step, the problem is it’s clear that these campaigns are also doing exactly what all advertisers dream – generating headlines and publicity. The companies mentioned above have all featured on news sites and been talked about far more than if they’d simply released a generic advert about razorblades or frozen sausages!
Now I’m not saying that good can’t come out of this, but when I see these ads part of me is always cynical. Something about these multi-million-dollar companies trying to tug at my heart strings to sell a product just feels a bit fake. I think that’s because, while on the surface it’s praise-worthy, that’s exactly how it feels – on the surface. It doesn’t feel genuine. It doesn’t feel authentic.
In the book of Matthew Jesus tells the story of a man who had two sons*, and the man asks both to work in his vineyard. One of the sons says he won’t help, but when it comes to it he does. The other son says he will help, but when it comes to it he doesn’t.
Jesus uses this story to highlight the difference between those who say and those who do, those who talk about following God and those who actually respond to the gospel. While our words are clearly important**, what’s of greater importance is how we demonstrate and live out our faith. Authentic living.
Jesus says to the religious leaders of the time ‘truly I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you’. Can you imagine how shocking this must have been? Jesus says the people most looked down upon by society, who are known for making poor life choices, were living more authentically than these religious men. Why? Because when they were faced with the gospel they didn’t just pay it lip-service, they responded.
Like the son who says he’ll help but doesn’t, these Jewish leaders were eager to appear religious, to say all the right things in front of the right people, but in reality they didn’t live it out. Their actions didn’t reflect their words. On the surface they were saying they served God, but once again that’s all it was – on the surface.
And that’s the challenge for us. Are we being authentic? Are we genuinely living out the gospel daily? Or is it all just surface-level?
I might say yes to Jesus in public on a Sunday, but what about when I have the opportunity to witness to my friends at work? Or when I need to forgive my spouse? Or when I’m faced with temptation and no-one will find out which way I choose?
What’s my response to Jesus then? Am I showing up to work on the vineyard, or am I saying one thing and then doing another?
We can’t know for sure whether these adverts are genuinely trying to make a difference. It will certainly be interesting to see if these kind of ads continue once they stop generating headlines. Ultimately what we see and hear on the surface isn’t what’s important. Jesus teaches us to go deeper than that.
Jesus calls us to respond to him.
Authentic Christian living means responding to Jesus’ call on our lives, not simply by saying yes with our lips, but by living it out, day by day.
*Matthew 21: 28-32
**Ephesians 4: 29
by Alex Banks