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Who Can You Believe?


Theme: Jesus warns us to watch for false leaders who would deceive us. - Proper 28(33) Year B
Object: You could show some products that make unbelievable claims.
Scripture: Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. Mark 13:5-6 (NIV)

Do you often watch television? If you do, you probably notice that about fifteen minutes out of every hour are taken up by commercials. Many of these commercials make some unbelievable claims to try to persuade you to purchase their products. How many of the claims in these commercials are actually true. Many of us think, "If they said it on television, it must be true" but is it? Here are some examples of false advertising claims that might make you have second thoughts about that.

  • A chewing gum company claimed to have germ-killing ingredients. Consumers sued the maker of the gum arguing that the gum had no germ-killing properties. The courts agreed and the company had to pay $6 million dollars to reimburse customers who had purchased the gum.

  • A popular brand of yogurt claimed that it had scientifically proven nutritional benefits. The courts forced the company to pay up to $45 million in damages to consumers who bought the yogurt because of their health claims.

  • One of my favorite breakfast cereals made an advertising claim that their cereal would help boost children's immunity from disease. They also claimed that the cereal improved kids' attentiveness by nearly 20%. The Federal Trade Commission found out that clinical studies showed that only 1-in-9 kids had that kind of improvement -- and half the kids weren't affected at all.

  • A well-known brand of athletic shoes recently claimed that their shoes would help users burn calories. The sneakers cost about $100 and many who bought them claim that instead of helping them to burn calories, they actually caused them to have injuries. They are seeking $5 million in damages from the company.

Those are just a few examples of false advertising claims. It is good for us to examine the truthfulness of the claims in advertisements, but it is even more important for us to look at the truthfulness of those who claim to be our spiritual leaders. Jesus warned about that in today's Bible lesson. Jesus was sitting with his disciples near the temple in Jerusalem when he said to them, "Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah.' They will deceive many people."

Jesus went on to warn his disciples about some of the things that people would claim were signs of the end of the world. "You will hear about wars and stories of wars to come. Don't be afraid, these things happen, but the end is not yet here. There will be earthquakes and many people will go hungry, but this is just the beginning."

How do we test the truthfulness of advertising claims? For one thing, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! But how do we test the truthfulness of our spiritual leaders? The best way is to compare their claims to the teachings of Jesus. Do their teachings agree with what Jesus taught? If not, we should read the Bible and ask God to help us to understand the teachings of Jesus. Another way is through prayer. When in doubt, ask God to help us determine what is true and what is not.

Heavenly Father, Jesus warned us about false teachers. Help us to read your Word and understand its teachings so that we will not be easily mislead. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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