You could make a harmless or humorous commercial, of course (maybe about a puppy and some clydesdales, or perhaps starring Liam Niessen as he orders a scone). But if you really want to sink your claws into us (and our wallets) as we eat our Doritos and sit there unsuspectingly, I advise the following:
1) Find something a lot of us idolize.
Everyone worships something. Each of us, at any given moment, is searching for our meaning, satisfaction, and joy in something. We were made to love, praise, and be satisfied by the God of Jesus Christ. He is true, wonderful, fair, good, and beautiful in a way that nothing else can compare to. But we think that sex, new cars, an app for our phones, or a new flavor of soda will thrill us sufficiently. We think that a lot, in fact. We think it even though we know from experience that these things always fade away or expire or leave us a little empty or really do taste like diet soda. We are perpetual idolaters, especially if we have not tasted the goodness of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Almost all of us watching the Super Bowl are prone to think that things or events will make us happy. If you show us a shiny thing with some cool music playing in the background, or tell us about some activity we can engage in and shed a spotlight or some confetti on it, you’re well on your way to making us your slave.
2) Tell us that we won’t be excited or happy unless we have it.
It may not always be enough to just show us your product. If you really want to get us addicted, paralyze our wills and pulverize our credit cards, you need to tell us that the other shiny things and other loud, sexy events being offered to us won’t make us happy, and that yours will. If you really want addicts and idolaters, you can’t just tell us you make a nice product that is more efficient than someone else’s; you need to imply we won’t have excitement or smiles without it. Seduce us. Musical selection is important here.
Make us think life will be empty if we don’t get what you’re selling. Sure that’s ridiculous, but with the right special effects and a cool enough narrator, we’re likely to believe you. We have stubborn hearts that are easily bored with God, and that are easily turned on by lesser, trivial things. Even those of us who know the Lord can be temporarily blinded if you the advertiser are willing to abandon all scruples and play it really deceptively. You know what you’re selling has flaws; but we don’t. You may be aware that our hearts don’t desperately need it; we forget.
3) Lie to us by telling us it really can deliver ultimate happiness or satisfaction.
Maybe you’re one of the few who have truly come to terms with the fact that material goods, sex, and parties can’t deliver ultimate joy. But if you are, you’d better learn to lie to us if you want to get us worshiping at the altar of your product. You need to get us to believe that this is finally the thing that can make life thrilling and joyful forever. That this computer, idea, loan, beer, movement, concert, pair of shoes, or tax refund will give us gladness and peace in a way that the last new thing (and the one before that, and the one before that, come to think of it…) didn’t.
Human beings are always chasing happiness, and almost always ignoring the God of Jesus Christ who offers it in an unending supply. If you can get us to think your pickup truck or new lipstick will calm our hearts and make us eternally happy, we’ll chase it. It won’t, of course, but we believe dumb things all the time.
Idolatry is a dangerous thing. It pulls you down a path that seems harmless, seems even normal. After all, everybody plays three hours of video games a day, and everybody gets jealous of the beautiful women on television. Idolatry’s danger is often quiet, subtle like that. Nonetheless, it does a very real, very violent injury to the soul. Instead of buying a new car and just enjoying it as a gift from God and a result of hard work, the car becomes a mine field of pride, anxieties, disappointments, or upgrades as you try to make it something more than it should be. An appreciation of a woman singing a song becomes an envy of her abilities, fame, or physical attributes. Idolatry turns good things into gods; in other words, it turns good things into death traps.
There is no god but God, and there is no ultimate satisfaction apart from Him. We were made to worship and adore and be glad in God in Christ. Only He can heal, only He can satisfy, and only He is worthy of our hearts.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”
I sort of wish there was a commercial during the Super Bowl that reminded me of that.