By Stephen Phinney

Recently, my wife and I stumbled onto a television show called Extreme Couponing. Since we are avid promoters of using coupons, we thought we might take this show in. To no surprise, we found a list of people, primarily women, who were addicted to a sale or a bargain. They all used the excuse that if it is free or an “extreme” savings – one should buy it. In one case in point, a lady had a three-year-supply of diapers, but no children. Her stated reasoning was, “If and when I have children.” These people have every corner of their homes and garages packed with stuff they probably will never use. In reality, these people are “organized hoarders.”

As I was watching this show, I was reminded of something Jesus said.

“Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions’ " (Luke 12:15, NASB).

Generically speaking, material possessions hinder our ability to embrace the richness of Jesus Christ. This is why we must be willing to experience the loss of all things and even count them as worthless, in order to gain a much larger understanding of our Husband. It is through our riches in Christ that we are able to totally enjoy the hand of the Lord in supernatural provision.

“The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps” (Proverbs 14:15, NASB).

The word “naïve” in the Hebrew is “pethiy,” which means “seducible.” The word “sensible” in the Hebrew is “arum,” which means “prudent” or “making use of senses.” With this insight, we can now read the verse in this way:

“The seducible believes everything, but the man who relies upon his senses, considers his steps.”

Salesmen in the marketplace are counting on the “seducible” to believe everything told to them in their Ads. The logic is simple! The salespeople know that less that 10% of people are the “sensible” types; therefore, they really don’t care about the “organized hoarders.” To be successful, the sales representatives point out the positive aspects of their products, while they downplay the negative. They leave it to the buyer to search out the negative, which is rarely done. What does that mean for the company? It means cash in their pockets. Plus, there is a marketing secret that few know; the FREE, or highly discounted, items are what the corporate world calls “junk products.” These are items that are cheap to make, are overstocked, or are simply “junk.” The loss margin is so low, they don’t care if the 10% get these items FREE or next to nothing. This is why these “organized hoarders” will have 106 cans of sodium-enriched, trans-fatted, hydrogenated junk on their shelves. How often do we find these kinds of deals on organic and natural products? We don’t. It is actually one of the oldest “tricks” in the trade.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22, NASB).

How many sales or corporate representatives would you say are lying? A better question would be, “How many sales representatives aren’t lying?” The goal of most companies is to create discontentment in our souls. This is done by somehow making us think that what we have isn’t “good enough” anymore or what we do have is outdated or inadequate. Companies try to convince us that if we don’t have their product, it will stunt our happiness or success. In reality, God is telling us to enjoy our present possessions. He wants us to remember that He has entrusted us with a certain level of material pleasure, in order to test us in our stewardship.

“A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 27:12, NASB).

Yes, you read that correctly. A wise man will actually run and hide when he sees seducible evil, which will lure him away from the way of the Lord. Whereas, the “seducible” (naïve) keep moving toward the cash register to pay the penalty.

Each year, millions of people buy into “get rich quick” schemes. We used to call them “fraudulent swindlers.” Today, we call them “multilevel marketers” or “financial campaigns.” It is nothing more or less than clever schemes to take our money in exchange for worthless ideas or products - usually stuff that barely lasts a year or turns to waste matter in a day. People who live off of these “get rich quick” ideas typically feed off feelings of inferiority, guilt, greed, and other lustful passions buried within the souls of their victims. Junk salesmen usually target independent people who only answer to themselves. Salespeople know that authority figures are the protective wall between them and their victims. If a woman said, “This all sounds great, but I will need to talk with my husband/father about this before making a decision” – well, that simply would stop them dead in their tracks. This is also why we find Satan doing everything within his means to reduce authority figures to nothing.

THE BAIT: If you have ever gone fishing or hunting, you know that there are four primary elements needed to catch your prey: the bait, the hook, the distraction, and the bite. Most advertisers work off of the fact that we have secret dreams lying dormant and waiting to be fulfilled. Their job is to find the right kind of bait to draw us to the hook. This “draw” usually involves some type of perceived “need” in our life. Once they are able to appeal to this perceived need, they are fairly certain we are going to bite into the hook.

THE HOOK: The success of an effective salesperson or advertisement is achieved not only by having the right kind of bait, but also the perfect hook. The advertisement hook involves confessions, testimonies, or statements that penetrate the hidden motives, or those secret dreams, hidden within our flesh. One of the greatest appeals is “to get something for nothing.” Nothing is sweeter to a deal lover than to get something that someone else has to pay for. The development of the “sharp hook” is a known and well-researched variable, in its ability to get the job done.

For those of you who fish, you understand the importance of “planting the hook.” You watch the bobber (statistics), you feel the tugging, and in that perfect moment of setting the hook, you pull like the dickens. Bam, you caught one!

THE PLANT: Swindlers use advertisements in a selfish way. They often work in teams and will strategically place others around us (the shopper), in order to create some excitement. Actors are hired to ACT like real customers who are satisfied with their product. This is what we call “planting the hook.” The only thing real about these paid testimonies is their makeup. The rest is as fake as their smiles. These compensated testimonials are paid to do one thing – to keep our eyes on the bait, so the company can set the hook.

THE BITE: Aha - the moment the company has been waiting for. During the phase of the bite, the fish really doesn’t do much of the work, the fisherman does. It works the same way with advertisements. Once the individual gets to the point of having the hook in his mouth, odds are that he will buy!

How do we stop this horrid cycle? It’s pretty easy. Decide to seek counsel before purchasing anything over $50. This is even easier for a married woman; just wait for the setting of the hook and then say, “I don’t make these kinds of decisions without permission from my husband.” Single gals may wish to say, “I don’t make these kinds of decisions without permission from my father.” Males may say the same thing, but use the term father or counsel. Done!

Was that too easy? Of course it was. This is why most swindling types of salespeople are hoping we have an authority problem. Did you hear what I just said? These companies are desperately hoping we have a real attitude about authority figures. They know if we use the simple approach spelled out above, the deal is dead!

The only salvation to protect ourselves against swindling salespeople and advertisements is to: commit to following Scriptural principles, seek counsel from authority figures, and lean upon the Holy Spirit within us. This I will promise you - the Holy Spirit will never lead us into debt!