by David Sisler

You have seen the line in movie credits: "No animal was harmed during the filming of this motion picture." After watching a particularly stupid commercial a few nights ago, I wondered if a similar tag-line could be penned: "No brains were harmed during the creation of this advertisement."

I enjoy a well-written commercial. Every once in a while, however, ad writers get a little too cute. Witness the following true store now ten years old from the life of a retailer (me).

Our advertising department produced a clever post card mail-out. It advertised seven features for special low prices and then offered a discount on the rest of the merchandise.

The special "20 percent off" was placed right beside of the highlighted items. It was confusing. Even though the very small print disclaimer on the back of the post card declared that those special seven items were not eligible for the discount, many people asked for them. Including Malisha.

Now Malisha was no body's fool. In fact, she's a highly educated woman. No fool, at all. Clever. Clever as a fox, you might say. She pointed out the extra discount and asked for it on the most expensive item. When she was informed it did not apply, she expressed her discontent with the ad, but recognizing a value, she made the purchase at the advertised price.

Several days later she called the store manager and complained about the ad. Having earlier told me that she understood what the ad was saying, she nevertheless demanded, and received, the extra discount. It was a savings to which she was not entitled. But in this day of "look out for number one," she did. And she was rewarded for her cleverness.

Malisha's cleverness made her a thief. She stole profit from the store. She stole my commission money. She robbed herself of integrity.

I repeat, the advertising department was a little too cute on this one. Advertisers always try to present their product in the best manner. They try to make their prices appear the lowest. And sometimes they deliberately do try to mislead. I called the agency which produced that postcard and spoke to the person who designed it. He acknowledged its vagueness, but maintained there was no deliberate attempt to mislead.

Applying for a new job several years ago, I was required to take a test. They euphemistically called it a "personality survey." It is really a written lie detector test. One of the questions asked: "Have you ever secretly rooted for a clever criminal in a movie to get away with his crime?" Another one asked: "Have you ever figured out a way to steal from a company where you worked without actually doing it?"

A lot of folks applaud the people who beat the system. We frequently cheer for the person who figures out an angle. The company who wrote that test understands that aspect of human nature. Employers are justifiably nervous about it.

James had a brother who claimed to be the Messiah. He sincerely doubted that his brother was God the Son. He was one of those who ridiculed the would-be Christ. Then his brother was executed on trumped up charges. When that brother, Jesus, came out of the grave alive, James became a believer. From that background he wrote a short book which has been included in the New Testament.

James wrote practical, by the seat of the pants, advice. He did not discuss his brother's resurrection. He did not mention the Holy Spirit. He did write five exciting chapters on how the Christian faith is to be lived on a day-to-day basis. One of James' gems is: "When a person knows the right thing to do, but does not do it, then he is sinning (4:17).

James identified an attitude which tells God, "I know what you want me to do, but I prefer not to do it. I really know better about this than you do!"

Malisha knew she was not entitled to the extra discount. She knew the right thing to do and did not do it. I have known the right thing to do and did not do it. And so have you.

So, what do we do about? Tell it to James' big brother. Jesus will not only help you to know the right thing, he will help you do it. Just ask him.


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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