Developing Sales Resistance, Part 5
I mentioned last week that one of the dangers that Christians face is to divide between Christianity and some portion of their life. They might think that devotions and evangelism is spiritual, but that we ought not to preach on business, economics or politics from the pulpit. That’s not spiritual. Francis Schaeffer calls this the sacred/secular dichotomy and it is very, very unbiblical and very, very dangerous. The reason it is unbiblical is that the Bible says that Christ claims every square inch of life for Himself. And the reason it is dangerous is that if we are not serving Christ, who are we serving with the other square inches of life? Christ says if you are not for Me you are against Me.
Now it is not only possible for sincere Christians to be against Christ in their economics, but it is possible for them to be unwittingly serving Satan’s purposes. Ignorance is not bliss, as we have discovered with Eve. Though Eve did not have a sin nature like we do, she was a creature with inherent limits and inherent weaknesses. Anyone but God has a weak point that can be exploited by some form of sales. One of her weaknesses was lack of experience, and because of her lack of experience Scripture says that she was deceived. In 1 Corinthians Paul says that he wants all of us to get to the point where we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices and schemes. And I can think of no better place to start in examining Satan’s methods than Genesis 3.
He was a master at selling his snake oil, and if we can become skilled at resisting Satan, we will also at the same time gain sales resistance to the politician who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes, or the sale’s person in some store. If we are to prosper in life and avoid a present oriented consumer mentality, then we will have to develop strong sales resistance. And this is the fourth sermon dealing with that subject.
So far we have looked at (let me quickly list them) association, direct appeal, isolation, baiting, challenging loyalties, negative advertising, exploiting vulnerability, downplaying danger, inflated or exaggerated promises, exploiting ambiguities, winning trust, insider information, perseverance in wearing you down, exposure to the product, feeding pride, redefining need and exploiting hungers. For each of those sales tactics we provided Biblical ammunition to give you resistance. And that brings us up to tactic 19.
19. Visual Impact. Strongly appealing to the eye gate with beauty, sensuality – “the lust of the eye” “that it was pleasant to the eyes” (v. 6) Plan when shopping. Don’t make decisions based on feelings. Research if necessary.
Verse 6 says, So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [We’ve already looked at that one] that it was pleasant to the eyes… Let’s look at that phrase. “That it was pleasant to the eyes.” This point deals with the power of visual impact. But before I give that, let me give a bit of background information first, so that you can see how this flows from the text.
When God says that Eve saw that it was pleasant to the eyes, He implies that Eve knew the difference between pleasant and unpleasant. And you might wonder, “Before the fall, how in the world could there be anything that was not pleasant?” And that question is not a purely philosophical one. There are huge ramifications that we won’t have time to explore today. But I do want to take at least a short rabbit trail here that I hope is interesting. In his book, Is the World Running Down?, I think that Gary North very successfully shows that the second law of thermodynamics (or what some people call entropy) is not a result of the fall, but was built into Creation. Otherwise there would be no ability to smell a flower – which requires random dissipation of ethers and microscopic particles randomly mixed with air. That’s entropy. Without the law of entropy there could be no helpful light and heat emanating from the sun. A hundred other processes would not work. Now death in the animal realm only came after Adam and Eve’s sin, but that was not so with plants. If Adam’s first snack was a carrot, a plant had to die. So there is a lot of misunderstanding about what God’s curse brought about. God’s curse introduced thorns and thistles, but not the need to subdue plant life that was growing wild. God very specificially calls Adam to subdue the earth. And God made him a Garden to model to him what that work might look like.
The Fall distorted entropy and applied the curse to entropy, but the basic features of entropy were already present. Which means that deterioration of fruit, fecal material and other substances would be at work. That’s why Adam had to tend the Garden. It would naturally get overgrown and become random and disorderly and cease being a garden if there was no gardener. Eventually, if there had been no fall, it would have been mankind’s task to subdue a good earth subject to entropy and make it a beautiful garden.
But (and here we are getting close to getting back to our topic) rotten fruit and rotten smells could exist prior to the Fall. That would be the very nature of the enzymes, acids and other materials in fruit. Which means that there could have been not only pleasant, so-so, and not so pleasant smells, but pleasant, so-so and not so pleasant sights. Eve had the ability to discern what was pleasant and what was not pleasant. And this ability to prefer pleasantness relates very much to understanding how advertising and sales can affect a person through the eye gate. She would have had the same kinds of discernments that we have in terms of the physical eyeball. And you might think, “So what?”
It means that our eye gate is just as vulnerable to attack from Satan as her eye gate is. It is true that she did not have a sinful nature, but she lacked the experience and knowledge that could have kept her from being deceived. Presented with unnattractive and attractive, she would naturally be drawn to the attractive. Presented with pleasant and more pleasant, she would be attracted to the more pleasant. That’s all that the passage is saying. There is nothing wrong with her judgment in seeing it as pleasant. It’s what she does with that information that gets her into trouble.
Many people have great anxiety because they recognize that something (maybe it’s a luscious piece of pie) or someone they look at is beautiful or pleasant. And because they have been so tempted in the past (maybe in the area of gluttony), and because they have become so determined to conquer this temptation, they do something unbiblical. They begin to despise what they see in God’s creation, rather than the evil in their heart. They begin to either say that God’s handiwork is not pleasant, or they wish it was not pleasant. And rather than going after the real enemy, they try to get rid of the product. Now sometimes that’s appropriate. Adam should have commanded Satan to leave. There are some things that you do get rid of. But notice that God’s available solution was not to dig up the tree and dispose of it. It’s not to put a giant tent over it in order to hide it from view so that nobody will notice that it is pleasant. That’s the way Muslims in some countries deal with lust. Rather than dealing with the real enemy within, they hide the beauty. They cover women in a sack or forbid the women to go out into the streets.
And so it is important for us to distinguish between the temptation and giving into the temptation. Christ was tempted in all points just as we are, yet without sin. If He had been in the Garden of Eden and had seen this fruit on the tree, He would no doubt register in his brain that it was pleasant to the eyes. But He would also immediately register that this tree was crossed off of his stewardship responsibilities as far as food cultivation was concerned. Do you see the point that I am getting at?
Now – with having closed off the wrong avenues of dealing with this problem, let’s look at the problem itself. Tactic number 19 is where advertisers recognize the power of visual impact in making people overlook defects or in framing their thinking in other ways. And this can be done not just in the beautiful advertisements you see in magazines, but it can be as simple as grinding down rust spots on an old beater, giving a quickie paint job, and pressure spraying the engine so that it looks shiny and brand new. For most customers, if it looks good, it is good. The visual impact is what makes the difference in their purchases. (unfortunately, I think this is the way many people decide when they vote for presidents.) It’s kind of fun to take children shopping and ask their opinion of which CD player, computer, or other product is best. Frequently it is the product that looks the most attractive or that has the most buttons on it. I think Compaq has used the tactic of visual impact very effectively, even though I don’t think much of their system. Visual impact is a powerful sales tactic. On some products, most buying decisions are decided by that alone.
How do we resist this sales tactic? First, it helps to simply understand the power of vision to frame our thinking falsely and to understand the dangers of judging based on vision. Judges in American courts know that two witnesses can see the same event, but because they have viewed the event from different perspectives and even different predispositions, they will sometimes come to totally different conclusions. We need to have a healthy caution about jumping to conclusions based on what we see – even if you saw what your children did with your very own eyes. If you had known the context leading up to the altercation, you judgment might be quite different. The Bible says, He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. Don’t always trust your eyes.
Now – the power that vision has to frame our conclusions has been carefully studied and used by the Television media and the advertising media. They have made a science out of this. I don’t know if you have ever studied how the media manipulates decision making through lighting, visual framing and even simple things like camera angles. One of the most fascinating classes that I ever attended was by an expert in this field in California. And he would play numerous video clips, stopping them and rewinding them to show the emotional impact and even the impact upon our decision making that the media had just accomplished. For example, he showed the effect that a camera angle would have upon your sympathies and interpretation of a person. The same person, walking the same way, could be made to look like a bad guy or a good guy depending on how he was shot by the camera. Test this in yourselves. You’ve probably all seen movies where you sympathize with and you root for an evil character because he is the one the movie wants you to sympathize with. He’s the hero. And you scratch your head and wonder, “How come I like this guy? Why am I hoping that this evil person will succeed in his evil endeavor. Why am I sympathizing with him?” I think it’s happened to all of us when we watch movies. It’s the power of visual impact to manipulate you. We’ve got to realize that that’s a weakness of our creaturehood. Our eyes cannot be fully trusted. And if we don’t recognize our tendency to favor what looks pleasant over what is better, we can make unwise purchases. So the first step is to recognize the power of vision to frame our thinking falsely. Teach it to your children. When they want to buy a product because it is glitzy and looks cool, sit down with them and take the time to show the missing features, and why this product has to rely on being glitzy in order to cover up its weaknesses. Sometimes they will still choose the glitzy and cool over the feature rich and the quality. So the first antidote is simply recognizing where you are weak.
The second antidote is to think of every purchase as a stewardship act. Ask yourself what God wants you to buy. It never even dawns on some believers to do this. They just automatically assume that if it is pleasant, I ought to have it; I ought to pursue it. If we approach life as stewards, we can enjoy the good things of life that God allows us to have, but it will always be within the constraints of stewardship that God sets. Now God didn’t give many constraints. There was so much liberty that God had given, just like God is generous with us. But it was Adam and Eve’s failure to recognize their stewardship constraints that allowed pleasantness alone to become a criteria.
If you can think of every decision within the constraints of your stewardship – it will hugely help in not pursing everything that looks pleasant. By the way, purchasing with credit cards often removes one of the constraints that God has placed upon us – living by a carefully thought out budget. Personal, unsecured debt should never be contracted for anything but a dire emergency. And even then, you need to ask yourself – is this worth becoming a slave. If your wife has to have an operation, it is worth becoming a slave. The Bible did not forbid slavery. It said “Try to avoid it.” But it also says that the borrower is slave to the lender. But I shouldn’t go down rabbit trails because there are a hundred of them we could go down. You will have to think through what the stewardship constraints are for you. Will God be glorified in this decision, or only my desires? Does it fit within the priorities of purchases for this year, or will purchasing this prevent my getting something important later?
The third essential to compensate for our weakness to visual impact is to compensate by doing at least some research. Or at least while you are in the store, compare features. We need to learn to depend more on logical analysis than you do on the eye gate. The eye gate can be fooled so easily. Many people will purchase cars, radios, stereos and other gadgets based on eye appeal alone, and end up with a lemon. So do the research.
Now I have spent a long time on this point because I think this is one of the weakest points for believers. I urge you to take it seriously. Make the fact that something is pleasant very low on your list of reasons to buy.
20. Fulfillment Appeal. Offering fulfillment apart from God “desirable to make one wise” (v. 6) Develop a good devotional life and find satisfaction in God. Remind yourself of how materialism has let you down
The twentieth tactic used by Satan was to offer fulfillment apart from God. Verse 6 goes on to say, and a tree desirable to make one wise. Now there may be other areas of fulfillment that you may go after than gaining wisdom. The materialist finds fulfillment in gaining things and impressing others with toys. The brain finds fulfillment in impressing others with knowledge. The workaholic finds fulfillment in doing more than anyone else and pleasing people with his performance. The tycoon may find fulfillment in his financial prowess. But people want be important in the eyes of somebody. And if nobody appreciates them, they could easily fall victim to a person who pays them a lot of attention. Many a young girl has been led into a bad relationship because the guy gave her compliments, appreciated her, and made her feel needed and fulfilled. Eve found fulfillment in being important and in having wisdom others did not have.
Two antidotes. First, recognize what your tendency is and compensate for it. What are the areas where you find fulfillment outside of God? Start crucifying that and giving it to Christ.
The second antidote to this is to find your sense of fulfilment in God and your relationship with Him. If a beautiful person finds fulfillment in turning people’s eyes, she will get depressed when she starts to lose that beauty. If a performance oriented person gains fulfillment in people recognizing how much he has done, or the important things that he has done, he is never going to arrive because people will always expect more of him that he can perform. Even pastors can fall victim to this – working their tails off trying to please everybody and constantly failing and therefore constantly trying harder. Our sense of fulfillment must come from God or else we become servants of creation rather than servants of God. Paul said, Do I seek to please men? If I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10) You cannot find fulfillment in people or things and still find fulfillment in God. The two are mutually exclusive.
Think of it this way. God doesn’t need our wonderful, sacrificial efforts. He could do everything we do in a life time, and He could do it in a snap of a finger. He doesn’t need our beauty, brains or money. So why does He give us jobs, beauty, money, etc.? I believe it is simply as assets by which we can serve Him. And when we serve the assets, they become liabilities. He has given us work to comform us to the image of Christ and draw us into a deeper walk with Him. Every detail of our lives that God crafts according to Romans 8:28 is designed perfectly by God to comform us more and more into His image. If that is not being achieved, it does not matter how successful you are in life – you are a failure. Now failures can get up and start anew. My brother told me that it was not till late in life that he realized that most of his missions, his pastoring, his teaching in school was a failure. The Lord gave him a vision of his past life and most of it was wood, hay and stubble lying in burning ashes at his feet, with only a few diamonds and pieces of gold. When you seek to grow your wealth – which is a Biblical concept, it is important that you not fall into the trap of falling out of stewardship. Your wealth is useless if it is not serving God and His kingdom. David said, One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.” (Ps 27:4) He is basically saying, “Everything that has been given to me as a stewardship trust has one purpose – to draw me closer to God and increase my love for Him; to make me conformed to His image. Paul said, I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings… David and Paul said that there was only one thing in life that brought true fulfillment: knowing God, becoming more like God and experiencing the power of His presence in our lives. That’s the only positive antidote that I know of to this tactic.
- KISS (Sound bites versus substance or giving incomplete, misleading statements.). (3 sentences) Ask investigator questions. Replace KISS with KICK
The 21rst tactic is the acronym, KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Advertising by its very nature usually has to be simplistic. It would be too complex if it analyzed all the ins and outs of a product, and nobody would want to listen to the ad. And there is a certain appeal to simplicity. That’s why the sound bite industry has been so successful in politics, business, advertising and yes – even in the evangelical church. We like to know what the bottom line is. But it’s important to know if their bottom line is the true bottom line; or even to know if your understanding of the bottom line is the same as theirs. I’ll give you some examples in a minute where it is hard to know. And so this is a strategy of giving incomplete, misleading statements by way of sound bites. Satan said very little. There was one question and two short statements. And what he did say contained partial truth and incomplete ideas. I think it is of the very nature of modern advertising to do this. They have to use sound bites. I’m not criticizing them for that. I am just recognizing that it is a weakness. And a lot of slogans used by politicians sound tremendous, but offer incomplete and misleading information. Sometimes it is deliberately deceptive just as it was with Satan here. But sound bite advertising needs to be recognized to almost always have the peril of inaccuracy about it – even if it is sincere and given by a Christian.
And actually, this is a temptation for pastors. If their congregation is not used to thinking, it is a whole lot easier for the pastors to sloganize in sermons and to deal with issues simplistically than it is to make the congregation think clearly through the complexities of life. I think some of the controversy surrounding the Sonship materials hits on this point where there is a certain reductionism and over simplistic approach to life. So we need to be aware of this everywhere. When we argue, it is a whole lot easier to use labels to condemn caret blanche rather than to deal with issues point by point . In fact, I think I used this KISS principle wrongly this past Wednesday in the mercy ministries class. I made a statement with regard to nursing that may be a good general rule, but when I began analyzing later on in the week all the ethical subtleties, I realized that my conclusion was hasty. We don’t like the hard work that complexity forces upon us, and so any of us can fall victim.
But let’s apply this to advertisements. There are ads that seem to get to the bottom line, when in fact they are misleading because of incomplete information. Here’s one: “This product offers more.” And we need to ask, “More what?” If it’s a computer, maybe it offers more bundled shareware, but doesn’t say a thing about its inferior architecture. Maybe it offers more processor speed, but sacrifices with a smaller backside cache or the FPU. The statement, “This product offers more than the competition” doesn’t mean a thing if the product itself is complex. It’s incomplete and misleading. Here’s another one. “Tests prove that this product is better.” Better than what? What tests? Maybe they were in-house tests that weren’t objective. You’ve probably seen ads that say “This product has been tested and recommended by scientists and doctors.” And you find out that they are some lab technicians, an MD and a PhD who all stand to get rich from the product. Or such and such a laboratory has tested this product rigorously against its competitor and they show the statistics. It looks like an independent analysis, and it proves to be a lab owned by the company. Did they really drop their own product as many times or as hard as they dropped their competitor’s product. The KISS principle or the sound bite tactic is handy, but it is often misleading. That’s why it is so hard to write brief advertisements about the church without misleading.
Antitdote? First, recognize the weakness so that you aren’t so easily fooled.
Second, learn to ask investigator type questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Third, on any issue that is complex, replace the KISS principle with Andrew Sandlin’s KICK principle. KICK stands for Keep It Complex Knucklehead. Sandlin pointed out how the KISS principle is actually disastrous in many situations. Many socialistic countries follow the KISS principle with disastrous results. So Keep It Complex Knucklehead is his alternative. I’ll let you read his essay. Now - some things in life are incredibly simple, and we ought not to make them more complex than they are. But if it seems too simple to be true, it may be.
22. Inverting weaknesses in the product into their opposites. “you will not surely die… you will be as God” Focus on the weak points and only buy if the weak points are compensated by the good.
We’re not done with the series, but let me end today with the 22nd tactic. This is to invert weakness, or to sell based on implied claims to being the very opposite of its weakness. What’s the downside to eating the fruit of this tree? That they would die. Satan says you will not surely die (v. 4). Another downside Eve ignored was that she and Adam would be cast out of the Garden. They would lose the very pleasantness that was being held out to them. But Satan paints the picture so glorious and inflated that he says, you will be like God (v. 5). You’ll be in control. Well, how much control do they have as they are cast out of the Garden and its entrance is guarded by an angel until it is overgrown and is no longer a Garden. At first blush it seems so bold that you would think that it would be an ineffective tactic. But it is. If you think about the advertisements that you have seen, you will recognize that Satan is not stupid here. Take the cigarette industry. They take the very points of weakness in their product and have slogans or pictures that imply that this is their very strength. You won’t find a tobacco company saying, Look at these slides of the lungs of two smokers. On the left you will see a person who smokes our cigarettes and on the right you will see the lungs of the person who smokes our competitor’s cigarettes. These are 80% filled with tar over a 20 year period and our competitors are 90% filled with tar over a 20 year period. Smoke our brand. You’ll die five years later. You won’t find them saying, “Everyone dies anyway, why not die with emphysema? They won’t advertise, “Buy 100 dollars of our cigarettes and we will pay for the first month’s cleaning to get the smoke sludge off your walls.” No, they take the very point of weakness – the disease, the stink, the filth on the walls – and they will make the opposite their selling point. Isn’t that exactly what they do? You see a cigarette in the mouth of a person fishing in a beautiful, fresh, unpolluted stream that flows out of some pristine mountain area. They don’t have a wrinkled hag coughing up sputum after every few puffs. They have healthy subjects who can run, bicycle, ride horses and compete with the best. OK? They take the very point of its weakness and invert the image into its opposite. And you can see this across the spectrum.
Credit card companies and banks who are trying to get you into further and further financial bondage don’t advertise the long hours you will have to work to pay for the debt. They show you a swimming you can enjoy, but fail to tell you that the second job you will have to take to pay off the credit card is going to rob you of the time to swim because the debts are nipping at your heels. They tell you that taking this loan will give you the freedom to do what you want. Yeah right! Scripture calls it slavery. They call it freedom. It’s inverting the weakness (financial bondage) into its opposite – freedom.
Teach your children how to recognize the lies in such advertising. I saw an advertisement for Windows 2000 server software claiming only five minutes downtime in one year. Well, I’m sure there is some business that had that. But they have taken the thing people fear the most and attacked it with an ad that this is their strongest point.
I was hoping to finish off this series today. I won’t be able to. But I think I have given you plenty to chew on. And I do want you to be encouraged. If the past four sermons have made you realize that you have weak sales resistance, don’t lose heart. Repent of your sin and seek forgiveness and cleansing from Him. And look to the one who does have the strength to resist these things, and ask Him to live His life through you. 1 John 5:4 says that there is no reason why you cannot overcome the tactics of the world, the flesh and the devil. Everyone who is born of God overcomes the world. Scripture promises, Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Though Jesus reminded us that we are weak apart from Him, Paul reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. So armed with a greater knowledge of Satan’s tactics, I want you to go into this world determined to exercise a better stewardship to God’s glory. Amen.