Recently a popular shoe company released an ad campaign that was quite controversial. It is not my intent to address the controversy which was associated particularly with the company’s chosen spokesman. I want to look at something that might be missed in the midst of all the controversy. I want to consider the slogan that accompanies the campaign.
The new slogan states “Believe in something; even if it means sacrificing everything.” I want to look at this because it presents itself as a sort of proverb. In fact, it reads like many verses we find in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. This slogan suggests that this is wisdom we should follow. While I’m sure the shoe company is more interested in selling shoes than dispensing wisdom, their campaign slogan presents itself as wisdom that we should consider carefully.
Quick to Hear
Another reason I would like to take a closer look at this slogan is that it gives us an opportunity to be quick to hear and determine whether or not this is wisdom. We should meditate on this for a moment. Quick to Hear meditation suggests first that we listen or read carefully what is being communicated to us. We then apply our hearts and our minds to understand what we have heard or read. Applying our minds means that we consider the information against what we know from God’s Word, our own experiences, and logic. Applying our hearts includes considering emotional issues and using empathy to understand things from others’ perspectives. We then apply our will to determine the likely meaning of what we have heard or read and choose a course of action in response to it.
Working through this meditation process helps us follow all the godly wisdom in James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Failing to slow down and meditate for a moment upon the messages we receive can lead to quick responses we later regret and anger that is often misplaced.
Believe in Something
Let’s take a moment to briefly meditate on this slogan to determine whether it is wisdom or not. The first part tells us to believe in something. Christians understand about believing, as it plays an important role in our faith. The Apostle John reminds us about belief, quoting Jesus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). Notice however the important difference between this famous verse from the Bible and the now infamous slogan. John’s gospel suggests we believe in Jesus, while these shoe salesmen tell us to believe in “something.”
It is important to understand that the power of belief is not in the belief itself, but in the object of that belief. For Christians, the power of our belief is in Jesus Christ, the object of that belief. Belief itself has no power beyond perhaps providing some emotional motivation.
With this in mind, let’s consider this proposed wisdom to believe in something. Let’s meditate on this, first applying our minds. The object of their belief is “something.” Merriam-Webster defines “something” as “some indeterminate or unspecified thing.“ Therefore, we are being told by these purveyors of athletic footwear to believe in some indeterminate or unspecified thing. This does not seem to be wise. What power is there in some indeterminate or unspecified thing?
Even If It Means Sacrificing Everything
While the initial clause seems to suggest this advice to be unwise, the second part leaves us no doubt. The sneaker company suggests that our belief in some indeterminate or unspecified thing should be so strong that we would be willing to sacrifice everything for it. Do you really want to sign up for that? I hope not. It is complete nonsense. Before we take any action on a belief, particularly if we are considering sacrificing everything, we should consider whether the object of that belief is worthy of such a sacrifice.
Applying Quick to Hear
When I was teaching intelligence officers and investigators, I often suggested they practice by listening carefully to advertisements and process (meditate upon) the message to discern more accurately what was being communicated. We are doing the same here. We should meditate upon this and all alleged wisdom, applying our minds, hearts, and wills.
In this short analysis, we focused primarily on using our minds. We thought about the statement. We also considered analogies from God’s Word. Further, we sought understanding by properly defining a key word in the slogan. We then exercised our wills to reject this saying, labeling it not as wisdom, but as folly.
You might be asking where the heart comes to play in this consideration. In this case, the heart plays a defensive role. As this is part of an advertisement and one that the company knew would be controversial, we need to remember that they are likely targeting our emotions. There are positive feelings associated with believing in a cause and devoting ourselves to it. Not every cause, however, is worthy of our devotion. Certainly, we should not view devotion to some indeterminate or unspecified thing as being particularly wise.
We need to use our heart wisely to prevent being mislead by messages; enabling our minds to work with proper and truthful information. Other times, we use our hearts in a positive way to help us empathize with others and understand them and their communication more accurately.
Taking the time to work through the Quick to Hear process with this slogan was good practice. We need to take advantage of such practice opportunities, as our lives often go so fast that we forget to take the time to meditate upon what we see and hear. Practice creates habits that will help us in the future. God wants us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. “ As we are slow to speak and anger, we enable ourselves to apply our minds, hearts, and wills.
Believe in God; believe also in me
For those who want to “just do it” and “believe in something,” Jesus suggests they believe not in something, but in a specific Someone. As He tells His disciples shortly before His death, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1,6). Jesus would soon be arrested and crucified; the perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. Jesus is the one who truly sacrificed everything.
So, be quick to hear and meditate to discern wisdom and folly.