I saw this ad today and was stunned at first and then I figured it out. But figuring it out didn’t make me any less queasy about the ad.
The little boy’s name is Jesus. I assume he’s from a Hispanic heritage, where Jesus is a common name. The ad is for Children International, a humanitarian organization whose mission is to reduce poverty among children. A worthy cause, no doubt. And a worthy little boy, no doubt.
But, in my opinion, the wording of the ad is bordering on the blasphemous. The not-so-subtle implication is that Jesus Christ needs us, and that without us, He has no hope. That is the initial way I think the ad is supposed to catch the reader. It goes for either the shock value, or for the emotional, sentimental-compassion-for-Jesus appeal, or for the guilt factor.
Either way, the implied message is that since Jesus is in such desperate need, that we need to sponsor Him. We can come to God’s rescue. We can have the satisfaction of knowing that we have rescued God from sure peril. If we don’t come to His rescue, He’ll continue to suffer.
Yet, I suppose we could take this yet another way, namely, that the subtle message here is banking on the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus said “as much as you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me,” and therefore Jesus, in this case, could be taken as being represented in this little boy – one whom we should help because it would be helping Jesus by extension.
But even if we take it that way, it doesn’t remove the implication that Jesus Christ is in dire need of our help, and that we’re therefore His only hope.
I realize that the body of Christ (Christians) are one of the key MEANS through which Christ accomplishes His sovereign work on the earth, including through our obedient love, charitable giving, and justice-seeking, but to imply that we are Jesus’ only hope is to WAY underestimate Jesus Christ and to WAY overestimate us, including our resources and abilities – and that’s putting it lightly.
Everything we are and everything we have come from Him to begin with. God does not NEED us in the slightest. We need Him more than we can comprehend.
Paul says in Acts 17:24-25:
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
God says in Isaiah 46:3-4:
Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
I don’t want to make more of this little ad than is warranted, because without a doubt, I think little children like the boy in the ad surely deserve our help. Yet I didn’t want to fail to pass along my impressions of what I think was clearly meant to be implied in the ad (even if the implications were only meant to be the initial hook, and then to be quickly bypassed for the correct meaning of “Jesus.” In other words, I think we are meant to initially think the ad refers to Jesus Christ, and then afterward to figure out that it refers to a little boy – otherwise they would have used another child’s name altogether. But they didn’t, and that’s the point.).
The reason I take issue with this approach is because I think that this is exactly how too many people do, in fact, perceive God. That’s why the ad works. We think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of God. We make God out to be like ourselves – we humanize Him. And we make ourselves out to be like little gods – we deify ourselves.
We commit the colossal error God pinpoints in Psalm 50:21:
“You thought that I was altogether like you.”