The following words partially came out of a Sunday school class I taught the summer of 2000. Thanks to the seven people who braved the rain and early morning to listen to this rambling guy.
So I was in a collectible shop the other day, and they had Beanie baby like bears, with a tag that said "Heroes of The Faith" Bears. Now I was intrigued, what made these bears heroes, and of what faith? On close inspection they each had a cross and a various Biblical name stitched on their front. Names like Moses, Joseph, Paul, Jonah, and others were represented. As they were only fifty cents, I walked to the counter with Peter, Paul, and Mary, cause I thought they had some great hits. I love that Puff. But enough about music, we'll get to that later. As I took them out of the bag later, I noticed that each one on its tag had a Bible verse, just one that usually dealt with the specific name. It wasn't even very evangelistic, just factual. So my question is what the heck are these for. Other than making a great point about cheapening the gospel to the seven who showed up for my Sunday school class? Are you supposed to fool your kid into thinking that the Paul bear will be just as treasured as Sammy? (I'm showing too much of my BBear knowledge!) Are you to teach your kids the way to present the four spiritual laws, give them a backpack full of bears, and send them off to preschool? Or did everyone else fail to get the point, and that is why they cost less than a candy bar?
Either way, I think it is about time we as Christians woke up to the fact that we might be doing more harm to the Gospel with the ways we package it, than the good we think we might be doing. How quickly we pass over the passage of Jesus turning the tables in the Temple, because it was turned into a place to make money. But in reality what is going on. Let me give you some examples, some real, some slightly exaggerated, but all I feel possible in our Christian bookstore kind of world.
Little Tommy shows up to school with some new cars to play with. His friends, being NASCAR fans, ask him where he got the cars with the wrong numbers and colors. He responds, "oh these are not racer's numbers, but Bible verses, cause God is my co-driver."
You are car pooling with a fellow from work. After a couple weeks, you decided it is time to bring up a crucial topic of discussion. You pick the morning, and call the prayer chain to have everyone praying. As you are stuck in your usual traffic jam, you turn to him and say, "Steve, I think we need to talk about a serious lack in your life. You have bad breath. Here is a package of breath mints. Oh, yea, they also have Bible verses in case you need God too."
A guy and girl are out on a date. As neither read the anti-dating books found in most Christian bookstores, they starting heading down a path they shouldn't. He takes off his shirt, and as he does, she notices the top of his boxers. She suddenly says they should stop, repent, and go home. In his confusion, he looks down and realizes he is wearing his WWJD boxers. They stop the date, go to their respective homes, and tell their parents what they had been up to. Both their parents go out and buy them both more WWJD underwear.
Imagine this commercial, "Parents are you tired of your kids spending hours playing violent video games killing people. Now there is a choice, give them one where they will spend hours playing a violent video game killing demons in Gods name. The latest in Christian entertainment. And don't forget coming soon.....a church bus driving simulation game, where you actually feel you are driving a time bomb on wheels with fifteen screaming kids."
Ok, so get the point. We have taken almost every product on the market and put a Bible verse or cross on it, and called it good. From granola bars to sodas, from chewing gum to denture cream, I bet you can find a Christian version of anything, and the scary thing is you don't have to look that hard.
Again, I think we have to look at the turning of the tables that Jesus did. There are actually two different times when he did some table turning in the temples. John records one, and Matthew and Luke record a separate event. But in both events the principle is there. People were selling stuff, even items used for worship practices, but God was not happy with the process and more specifically the location. We could debate if it was because of the location or the price-fixing of the items, but either way, people were making a profit selling specifically to those of religious nature. Sounds familiar, don't you think?
So if you are someone who manufactures, processes, or sells products with a Christian slant to them, think clearly about what you do. Please don't cheapen the Gospel. It should be the same thing it has always been. Man messed up, God loves us anyway, Christ died, was raised to life, and rose to the heavens to prove it. Believe in Christ and you will be saved. Don't be looking for ways to market a new Christian version of a popular product. Don't go out an box up donkey dung for some Balaam's talking donkey tie-in.
I just wonder what would Jesus really do with one of those bracelets?
If you still want a piece of gum with the Gospel check out www.biblegum.com.