We are relentlessly targeted by marketing campaigns. No matter where we turn, there’s a billboard, a commercial, an online ad, a pop-up – it’s everywhere, constantly! We can’t get away from it.
Have you noticed that after you Google something you’re considering for a purchase, suddenly ads for that particular item are in your Facebook feed? Then you click on an interesting article, and ads appear displaying the shoes, car, appliance, or vacation spot you searched.
A few months ago, I looked up a particular private college using my laptop. Within hours, the music app I use on a regular basis began playing ads for the college at seemingly every break. I wasn’t even shopping. But it was too late. I had been zeroed in on. And months later, the ads are still coming.
These advertisers want your money! And they will do whatever it takes to get it. They work hard appealing to your every whim and delight! They study you. And the cyber age has only made their efforts more successful – and intrusive.
Last year, Tucker Carlson of Fox News did a story just to show American smartphone users how much information Google gathers on a daily basis. A group of producers and reporters set out to investigate.
The network used two smartphones, both of which had no SIM card and no access to Wi-Fi or a cellular data network. Other than camera capability, both phones were essentially useless to “the user.” But not to Google.
After a busy day with the two phones in the reporter’s pocket, Fox staffers used a device to capture the encrypted data heading straight to Google. They discovered the phones tracked everything second by second – the exact location, whether the reporter was walking, riding, or exiting a vehicle. And though one of the two phones was set to airplane mode, still the data was collected.
Google, using a business model called “surveillance capitalism,” is tracking your every activity, examining you, and targeting you for paid advertisements. Google is making money – lots of money – and so are the companies paying for access to its most likely consumers. It’s all about the “almighty dollar!”
As Brett Larson, Fox News Anchor, put it, “Every move you make, every step you take, Google is watching you.”
Though we are in a new era of rapid technological advancement, the concept is ages old. The process is similar, but the end game is altogether different. More serious. More final.
Google and its paying customers are after our money. Satan is after our souls.
Similarities in the methods employed are no accident. Why? Because they work.
1 Peter 5:8 instructs us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He is watchful, stealthy, and patiently persistent – always maneuvering to take us captive.
We all know advertisers exaggerate the benefits of the products represented. Satan goes beyond exaggeration. He twists, manipulates, and tricks – always making sin seem like a fascinating discovery.
James 1:14 says that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”
Just like advertisers, Satan is always watching, hard at work appealing to our selfish desires and lusts – a weakness that makes us susceptible to the product being sold. For Satan, that product, in the end, is death – spiritual death and eternal suffering apart from God.
Once we’ve chosen the lie, he finishes his work. James 1:15 goes on to describe the process:
“Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Deception is his currency. Satan and his helpers (Ephesians 6:12) disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In chapter 4, James tells us how to keep ourselves from succumbing to Satan’s deceptive ploys:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Scripture describes Satan as “cunning” – having or showing skill in achieving one’s ends by deceit or evasion. The apostle Paul expressed concern that the church in Corinth would be led astray by false prophets who would operate in the same illusive manner:
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). (Emphasis added.)
I could go on about leaders in today’s “church” who twist and manipulate the Scripture to appeal to selfish desires. These individuals are “workers of iniquity, or lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). We are surrounded on every front.
Satan works his way into the minds of human beings, including believers. Jesus acknowledged this reality in one of His own disciples (Peter): “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23).
We are each at risk of falling subject to Satan’s trickery, but we must remember the promises found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and 1 John 1:8-9:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
In the meantime, advertisers have no plans of giving up on you and me. As a matter of fact, they are sitting around tables trying to figure out how to more successfully capture our attention – and our dollars. Their goals revolve around us.
The Devil’s goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. And he’s not giving up on us today, or tomorrow, or the next day. But neither is Jesus. He came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). He is ever interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34).
We must be alert. Submit to God. Resist the Devil. Flee temptation.
And when we fail, quickly confess, repent, and return to our loving Father.