According to The New York Times, every day each American is exposed to 3,500 desire-inducing advertisements, all promising that satisfaction is just one purchase away. Author Rodney Clapp says, “The consumer is schooled in insatiability. He or she is never to be satisfied—at least not for long. The consumer is tutored that people basically consist of unmet needs that can be appeased by commodified goods and experiences.”

The view that life is the pursuit of material desires is flatly denied by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He reminds us that life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing (Matthew 6:25), despite what the 3,500 daily advertisements would have us believe. Jesus’ call to take our focus off of material needs or desires is intended to alleviate our anxiety. When we see the world from God’s perspective, as a place under his providential care and provision, we can release our fears. When we see the world from Madison Avenue’s perspective, however, not only will our fears remain they will multiply.

Back in 1897, at the dawn of the modern advertising industry, one newspaper reader said that in the past we “skipped ads unless some want compelled us to read, while now we read to find out what we really want.” Most of the 3,500 ads we see every day are not designed to remind us of our needs, but to manufacture new ones. Imagine if you were reminded 3,500 times a day of God’s presence, love, and promise to care for you. How would that affect your level of anxiety?

If you are struggling with fear or the stress of trying to acquire more, consider how you might remove some of the 3,500 ads you encounter each day. What media can you turn off? What places might you avoid? Replace them with prayer, reading Scripture, or time with things that lift your imagination to God.

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weekly prayer

Aelred of Rievaulx

I kiss your feet, dear Jesus, I press my lips to them,
because despite my many sins,
despite the burden of guilt upon me,
despite my lack of discernment,
I know that I have nothing to fear from you.
I embrace your feet, Lord Jesus;
I anoint them with the oil of my repentance.
And as I crouch at your feet,
I know that I am safe,
because you despise no one,
reject no one,
repel no one,
welcome everyone,
admit everyone.