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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Needs Or Wants?

February 26th, 2002

One wonders how they came up with the idea. Did excessive time spent preparing coleslaw cause them to miss their child’s school program? Was it because the inventor’s Dad never let him or her have a BB gun when they were a kid? Or was it an ad agency brainstorm session where someone said, “What would we get if we crossed a tomato with a Tommy Gun?” Whatever the origin, it was a stroke of marketing genius.

They achieved success by selling hundreds of thousands of people on the idea that their lives would be complete if they could lock and load garden produce like clips in an M-16 and fire cucumbers slices into a bowl at 120 rounds per minute. What do you get when you cross a tomato with a Tommy Gun? The Salad Shooter™.

America is a world power. In the marketplace. On the battlefield. And in the kitchen. We lead the world in salad technology. While other countries toss their greens with primitive wooden spoons, we prefer to fire at our lettuce from point blank range with electric pistols. All the safety rules apply. First and always, check to see if it’s loaded. Is there a potato in the chamber? Don’t point it at anything you don’t intend to slice and dice. When not in use, be sure the safety is on. This prevents accidental firing. All it takes is one slip of the finger on the trigger; one unfortunate blast of bacon bits and life as you know it is never the same. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

In sales, we talk about “need based selling”; the importance of explaining how the product or service will fill a need that the customer has. While the concept is valid, practically speaking, America hasn’t been a true need based society for over 60 years. In America, our economy is primarily driven by wants. It’s both the luxury and the curse of living in a land of plenty. Most Americans, while perhaps not yet at the income level they desire, are far beyond earning money for basic survival. For example, in 1950, 10 percent of all income in the United States was spent for luxuries. By 1980, 30 percent of all income went to luxuries. And that was 20 years ago.

Madison Avenue doesn’t sell needs. It sells wants. The best sales people today aren’t need fillers. They are want creators. No one needs a Salad Shooter. We may want it, but we don’t need it. With their creative and persuasive commercials, the marketers of the Salad Shooter have brushed aside the inexpensive practical efficiency of a simple kitchen knife and created a desire to see mushrooms flying out the end of a barrel. Tossing a salad is old fashioned. Shooting a salad is 21st century. Using a knife to cut your veggies is passé. Electric whirling blades are high-tech. Fulfilling a need is boring. Fulfilling a want is exhilarating.

Sometimes conversations about needs and wants imply that satisfying a want is a bad thing. Follow that line of logic and it’s easy to see the problems. Who determines the break point? Who draws the line between necessity and luxury? If fulfilling a want is bad, then is God displeased with everyone who lives beyond a stripped down utilitarian existence? I don’t think so.

The place to start, as always, is to allow God to define Himself by His own terms. God says that He owns it all. God also says that He is a loving, generous God who enjoys providing for us. Jesus Himself said that He came so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.” In our American consumer culture we’re too quick to equate abundance with material gain. To point at Jesus’ words and say, “See, Jesus wants me to be rich!” is (besides a gross misinterpretation of the text) to miss the point.

Jesus had something much better in mind. He knows that it’s possible to fulfill every want and still not have what we need. Jesus understands we face the deadly possibility of fulfilling every want we have to the point of gaining the world, and in the process lose our soul. Or, as the bumper sticker says, “He who dies with the most toys…still dies.” In the end it’s our soul we need to keep.

Jesus knows our needs. Jesus also knows our wants. When we begin to experience the abundant life He wants to give us, it’s easier to discern the difference between the two.

Something to think about next time you’re firing hollow point croutons at your spinach salad. (Wear your safety glasses.)

“The thief comes to steal and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10