The Confessions, Augustine, Translated and Edited by Philip Burton (Alfred Knopf, 2001)
Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller (Dutton, 2009)
I was reading my Real Simple magazine the other day and found this very short article to be noteworthy. Although the knockoff business is thriving, this author is suggesting that we just go for the name brand. And if you can’t afford the real deal, she recommends skipping the fake entirely. Take the whole knockoff handbag industry for instance:
Ethical reasons aside, consider this: Purchasing the fake bag may cost you more in the long run. In fact, purchasing counterfeit products makes you up to 70 percent more likely to splurge on the real deal eventually, according to a 2009 study conducted by Renee Richardson Gosline, a professor of marketing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Gosline tracked 112 women who attended “purse parties,” in which female friends met to buy knockoff bags. The women received lots of compliments on the imposter merchandise, says Gosline, but they also noticed that the bags showed signs of wear and tear fairly quickly. Soon enough, a majority of the owners found themselves buying designer replacements. Another reason they sprang for high-end carryalls? According to Yi Qian, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, exposure to counterfeit goods makes people more aware of—and in turn desirous of—the genuine designer articles.
I think this concept applies to something even higher than financial advice. As I was reading, I was reminded of the well-known Augustine quote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” How often do we look to a counterfeit to fill that deep longing we have to be blessed by God? In his book, The Confessions, Augustine discusses this search for the One who is to be worshipped:
Whom can I find to reconcile me to you? Should I approach the angels? What appeal should I make? What rites perform? Many have attempted to return to you, and, not being able of themselves, have essayed these means and have fallen into a desire for arcane visions, and accounted worthy to be deluded; or so I have heard. Full of pride in their learning, they have puffed up their chests, not beaten them; they have drawn to themselves the powers of the air (Eph. 2:2) attracted by their likeness of heart, as fellows and sharers in their arrogance. Being deceived by their powers, they have sought a mediator to purify them, and there was none. Instead there was the Devil, transforming himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14)…Those who sought in their pride to be reconciled to you were mortals and sinners; but you, O Lord, are immortal and without sin. It was right that the Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5) should be like to God in one respect and like to men in the other. If he were similar to men in both respects, he would be far from God; if he were like to God in both respects, he would be far from men, and in these ways would not be a mediator. The false mediator, through whom according to your hidden judgments they deserve to be deluded in their pride, has one thing in common with men, namely sin, but wishes to appear to have the other quality in common with God; not being clothed in fleshly mortality, he wishes to flaunt himself as an immortal. But the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23); and this is what he has in common with men, that with men he might be condemned to death (256-257).
How foolishly we run to forgeries of God’s likeness for our meaning and value when by grace through faith we are given the real deal! We are freely offered the true Mediator to God! The only One worthy of our worship paid the highest cost for us to gain his inheritance. And we insanely invest much time, energy, and resources on counterfeit knockoffs. We are offered the highest value and chase after cheapened phonies. In Christ we find true satisfaction and joy. Just one more quote from one more book will tie up this reflection. In Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller teaches:
To rejoice is to treasure a thing, to access its value to you, to reflect on its beauty and importance until your heart rests in it and tastes the sweetness of it. “Rejoicing” is a way of praising God until the heart is sweetened and rested, and until it relaxes its grip on anything else it thinks that it needs (173).
Let us rejoice in the real deal. Trust me, it’s the counterfeit that we can not afford!