Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's the Real Thing

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
-- Matthew 6:19 - 21

The introduction – or more accurately “re-introduction” – of so-called “retro” products has been a hot marketing trend for several years. You can buy classic video games (like Pac Man and Space Invaders) from the 1980s, wear college football jerseys from the 1960s and drive old school muscle cars from the 1970s. Yes, some things really do get better with age.

Many marketing experts credit simple nostalgia for the products’ successes. They say they’re popular because our aging population looks back toward simpler, more innocent times. And maybe there’s some truth to that. But it’s also likely that folks naturally gravitate toward trustworthy products that have proven themselves over the years. If something isn’t broken, they don’t want anyone trying to fix it.

That might sound like a no-brainer. But it happens to be a basic marketing principle that one Fortune 500 company ignored with disastrous results. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced New Coke with much hype and fanfare. Unfortunately, this product replaced the tried-and-true fizzy beverage that had quenched the world’s thirst since the late 1800s. Consumers complained that the new drink tasted suspiciously like rival Pepsi. Black marketers began selling $30 cases of the old cola to those still thirsty for the beloved original product. And worse yet, sales of New Coke were (pun intended) flat. The result was a public relations fiasco for Coca-Cola. So within weeks, they pulled New Coke from the market in favor of a classic: Coke Classic, to be precise.

Coca-Cola’s folly is a textbook example of how companies can seriously damage themselves by replacing their reliable products with inferior, second-rate imitations. Consumers might be fooled for a while. But eventually, they see through all the slick advertising and hype.

This goes to show that we’re willing to fight to keep quality products on supermarket shelves. But when it comes to our spiritual lives, most of us are too willing – if we’re really honest with ourselves – to drop our loyalties at times and seek fulfillment from outside God’s kingdom. Rather than depending on Jesus for our inner joy, how often do we turn to negative external influences for a short-lived glimmer of happiness or pleasure? It can come in many different forms – anything from alcohol to drug use to gambling to illicit relationships. And a hobby, job or even religion itself can turn negative when we use them to replace Christ as the source of true meaning in our lives.

An ancient observation from the Book of James reveals much about this issue:

“You want things, but you do not have them. So you are ready to kill and are jealous of other people, but you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight,” teaches Jesus’ brother. “You do not get what you want because you do not ask God.”

Turning back to God – the tried and true Original -- is therefore the first step toward gaining personal fulfillment. To borrow Coca-Cola’s classic slogan, It’s the Real Thing.

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