My favorite classes when I was attending business school were the marketing classes. It was fascinating to learn stuff like: how product placement in a store can appeal to impulse shopping ... how to use man's tendency to value image over substance in advertising ... how a product is packaged often trumps the very product itself. There are multitudes of subtle tricks that companies use to help them keep boost sales and profit. Did you know that your bag of potato chips that used to contain 16 oz now only has 12 oz? Or that your big bottle of bleach that used to be a gallon is now just 3 quarts? Or that the toilet tissue that advertises 1000 sheets per roll still has 1000 sheet per roll, but the sheet size has been reduced from a 4" to a 3.7" size? This list is almost endless.
And while it's sad that we see this in the world of commerce it's even more sad that we see it in the church. Churches have learned to market themselves very well to appeal to the Christian consumer desires and demands. Even here there are many subtle tricks that can be used to draw in people. And though this criticism certainly doesn't apply to every church, there are many churches that are more concerned about "packaging" than the "product" itself. Why would be this be? Because church leaders, just like business people, are often slaves to the idol of the "bottom line" profits, which in the church is typically the size of the congregation, budget, and building ... in each case, the bigger the better.
This really isn't anything new! As the people of Israel demanded a king they were impressed with the selection of Saul - "There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people." (1 Sam 9:2) This person needed to be "packaged" correctly with all the impressive measurable traits desired for a king. Yet we have seen that with Saul the people of Israel didn't get what they thought they saw at first.
This Sunday as we study 1 Samuel 16:1-23 we are introduced to Saul's successor as king of Israel - a shepherd boy named David. Unimpressive from a physical and social perspective, David is God's choice.
We find this same mode of operation with God when He sends His Son Jesus to earth ... unimpressive physically and socially, born in obscurity. Also, we note that the high point of Jesus' work here on earth was His humiliating, shameful, repulsive death on a cross. Then consider how Christ decided to spread His Kingdom by picking a bunch of common, everyday sinners to tell others. God's ways are truly different than ours!
As you read 1 Samuel 16 and prayerfully prepare for this Sunday's worship, ask yourself whether or not you're putting your hope and trust in the things you can see, taste, touch, feel, and hear or in the promises of God that are often only available to us by faith. Remember, what you (think you) see may not be what you get. But what God promises is always true!