Friday, March 19, 2010

Two Masters

One of my most favorite things in the world is when several different things -- books, movies, conversations, whatever -- collide in my brain to reinforce one particular idea.

And you know I didn't just say that for no reason.

In my Microeconomics class on Tuesday, we learned about a man named Edward Bernays, who was one of the first marketing masterminds of the 20th century. Obsessed with how masses of people thought and acted, and what could trigger their emotions and desires, this psychoanalyst became the go-to man for any company in need of a major sales boost. Cigarette companies turned to him to find a clever way to get women to smoke, doubling their demographic -- he staged publicity events and wrote catchphrases all to make it socially acceptable. His propaganda was used for World War II to rouse American spirits, to get us to buy new cars and clothes, and even to make us think that President Coolidge was a hip guy who invited celebrities to the White House. Basically, he took pride in his ability to control the masses.

I was disgusted as I watched this documentary, because I saw the values he taught us in myself. I've been convinced that my clothes needed replacing merely because they were no longer in fashion. I have far more shoes than I'll ever need for all different occasions. I lust after material goods, knowing they will lose their luster moments after I spend money to have them, just because this guy has the media telling us that these things make us happy, we need them, they'll make us more popular, blah blah blah. I don't know about you, but I can't stand the thought of people telling me how to think, and look how easy it is.

Fast forward to today. I was doing a bit of light reading, Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand (that was irony, by the way), which details the author's experiences in communist Russia as a preacher of the gospel in hostile times. He's been thrown in prison and tortured for a total of 14 years, and the doctors he saw upon leaving prison the first time told him it was a miracle he was alive. He talked about young men being thrown into prison for approaching the prime minister and sharing the gospel with him, and being killed nearly immediately afterwards for it. (Interestingly, the PM did accept Christ just before he died, remembering their words before they were dragged off.) Secret police officers were converted to faith and then put in the same cells as the people they persecuted before, beaten in the same way, regardless of their rank. Beautiful young Russian girls were abducted on their wedding day, the moment when they were at the peak of their radiance, to be mutilated and distorted through torture by the prison guards. These people gave anything and everything for what they believed. They would rather have their teeth kicked out or be put in a box with nails driven through the sides than sell out either their fellow Christian brethren, or their torturers. They would be taken mid-preaching to be whipped and kicked and burned with a hot poker, and come back bruised and bloodied asking where they had left off.

These kind of people find that nothing is too precious in this world to be traded for the majesty of Christ. Rather, they refused to trade their steadfastness in Jesus for steadfastness in physical beauty, money, status, popularity, or comfort. I was absolutely moved by their refusal to buy into any lie that there is lasting joy to be found in anything, but hope in a love that transcends life itself.

It's pretty obvious where these ideas intersect and fuse, and these two things combined to become this fire in my heart about what I waste. I waste money on things that I don't need and won't care about in five years. I waste time on things that I'll forget by tomorrow and that won't have changed a thing on the face of this earth for the good of anyone. All of my selfish, short-sighted thoughts were like chaff in my soul, and the Holy Spirit began to burn it up as I meditated on Bernays' mass consumption and Wurmbrand's rejection of anything but the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

I'm sick and tired of being complacent with planning for a comfortable job in an office, waiting to be courted by a financially-comfortable man to live in a comfortable suburban house, living a comfortable life with our children, living out my faith by making snacks for vacation bible school and then spending the rest of my time deciding what color to paint my front door.

I feel God is preparing me to step out after graduation with no idea where I'm going, to marry someone as crazy as I am to live our lives for the gospel (or even go it alone if I absolutely must), and to think every day: "A year ago today, I had no idea I'd be doing this."

If I profess something to be true, I want no contradiction between how I live and how I think. And I have found no greater hope than this gospel. May our hearts be purified of this culture we live in that tells us we can compromise giving Jesus our entire beings for any lesser thing.

Father, forgive me for making it about the clothes, the make-up, the car, the music, the grades -- everything but You.

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Matthew 6:24

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

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