In the worship of this past Lord’s Day the divine liturgy that I shared in led us to confess that there were times when we failed to think of God’s call upon our lives properly. Because of these times we could not live an “impossible dream” because we saw this call as “an unwelcome interruption.” I was struck by how powerful this simple confession was to me. The line which followed said, “Faithful God, the apostle Paul emphasizes Abraham’s complete trust and faith in your promises and how he grew ever stronger in faith, fully convinced of your ability to fulfill what has been promised.”

Then this affirmation was followed by an application and confession which genuinely struck me as soul-searching in a profound way:

We find it hard to hear your promises above the commercial assurance of transformation–promises tempting us to trust the newest and trendiest product to realize our dreams. For all the times when we do not place our hope and trust in you alone, forgive us, O God. 

I thought about this confession over the last 24 hours. I believe that it is very hard for us to hear God’s promises “above the commercial assurance of transformation.” There is a continual din of noise in our culture that promises, very falsely, to grant us deliverance and joy through having or buying more and more.

It should be understood that there are several ways to understand this word commercialism.

First, we can understand it in a fairly positive and benign way. Commercialism is the practices, methods, aims, and spirit of free enterprise, all of it geared toward generating profit(s). I do not believe this commercial process is inherently evil. This process is actually the true engine of financial success, an engine that can lift the poor, stabilize the middle class and bring greater good to more and more people. Freedom gives us a myriad of ways to develop commerce without exploiting others and corrupting ourselves. The problem is not commerce, or trade, but how we corrupt it.

But commercialism can, and does, have a very negative connotation when we exploit people, and/or the environment, for private gain or for the sole purpose of generating profits. This is why the term “commercialized” is generally understood in such a negative fashion, implying that someone, or something, has been despoiled by commercial or monetary interests. The Bible warns us against this danger repeatedly. Jesus said a great deal about this and warned of how it often destroys the soul.

I think the negative idea that entered my mind as I confessed my own sin on Sunday was that of commercialism as it is associated with the constant reality of an advertising culture that bombards my mind, making me desire what I do not need and seek what I cannot have or afford.

I will continue to pray, this week and beyond, that I can “hear your promises above the commercial assurance of transformation–promises tempting us to trust the newest and trendiest product to realize our dreams.”  Amen.

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