31st August 2013


“…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Luke 12:15 (NKJV)

Do you recognise the name Edward Bernays? I didn’t until recently. But even though he is almost unknown today, Edward Bernays had a lot of influence on my life, and on the lives of everybody around me. You see, in the 1920s, Edward Bernays revolutionised the world of advertising. 

Old-fashioned advertising used to extol the practical virtues of a product, stressing how well it did its job. According to the new method developed by Bernays, advertisers hinted that the product would make us happier. For example, a car was not offered as a means of transport, instead it would make the (male) driver attractive to women. A t-shirt would not just keep you warm, it would make you fashionable and popular! Bernays combined his knowledge of psychology (he was a nephew of Sigmund Freud) with the profession of advertising. He taught the ad’ makers to appeal to the desires and fears of consumers, and thus persuade them to buy things they didn’t really need. 

Have you ever bought something on impulse—something you could easily have done without? Me too! Have I ever bought an expensive gadget which I hardly used, and which is now gathering dust on my shelf? No comment. 

It is not wrong to buy something just for the pleasure it gives. It becomes a problem if we spend a lot of our budget on luxuries and as a result, really important things are neglected. We can get into debt unnecessarily, or spend all our time working to fund our “lifestyle”. Even if we are lucky enough to have plenty of money, when we think that things we buy, like fine goods, foreign holidays etc, will bring us fulfillment, we will be disappointed. True happiness does not come from possessions. 

In the industrialised world, our lives are dominated by consumerism. We have to constantly earn and spend a lot of money, not for luxuries, but just to live ordinary lives. This makes life stressful enough, especially if we are struggling to keep up financially. But in addition, we are also constantly under subtle but powerful pressures persuading us that happiness will come from things we buy. Without our realising it, we can grow to live our lives with false priorities. The constant pressure from the commercial world tends to focus our attention on material things, and away from important things like friendships, knowledge, character development and our relationship with God. 

Let us be alert to the influences all around us which give us false priorities. Let us keep our focus on things which have real value—those things that will not disappoint us. 

Father, help us to guard our minds and hearts. Let us not be distracted by things which are outwardly alluring, but ultimately futile. Give us the wisdom to strive for what is of real value.

Study by Joseph Casey

joecaseyAbout the Author:
Joseph Casey is an Elder in the Limerick Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God.

Local  Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God, Limerick
Please phone for venue

Meeting time:
The first and third Saturday of each month at 1:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Joseph Casey
Phone:  +353 872592983
Email: joecasey@shannontechnology.ie

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