From bumper stickers to T-shirts, baseball caps to billboards, Americans enjoy their freedom of speech.

From bumper stickers to T-shirts, baseball caps to billboards, Americans enjoy their freedom of speech.

A car’s bumper sticker can reveal the owner’s political ideologies, faith practices or ethical concerns:

–“Vote like it matters. Then maybe it will.”

–“Diversity, not divisiveness.”

A T-shirt can seek to enlighten others spiritually, philosophically or ecologically:

–“Conceive. Believe. Achieve.”

–“Think globally. Act locally.”

A baseball cap can declare allegiance to a team, a business, even an attitude:

–“Eagles don’t flock.”


A billboard can stop us in our tracks or make us think long thoughts:

–“To hear divine laughter, tell God your plans.”

–“God gives every bird its food but doesn’t drop it in its nest.”

Each expression is intended to evoke a reaction. We decide at a glance whether the person is smart or ignorant, narrow- or open-minded, bigoted or accepting. We smile in agreement or amusement or we scowl at what we consider foolishness and misplaced confidence.

Some are completely lighthearted and fun:

–“What if the Hokey-Pokey really is what it’s all about?’

–“Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.”

Others are sarcastic, even threatening:

–“Sorry, it’s not my day to care.”

–“I have an attitude, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Modern advertising has further conditioned us to cleverly turned phrases, double entendres and short but packed messages. Advertising’s goal is to convince us that a particular purchase or decision will make our lives significantly better and more meaningful.

It works. And not just at the cash registers. For many, the key to a life of meaning and purpose can be compressed into one or two slogans they adopted somewhere along the way. They may not even remember where they first heard the words. They just seem to sound good and make sense:

–“Talk only if you can improve the silence.”

–“There’s no shortcut to anywhere worth going.”

–“Madness in the name of God is still madness.”

–“Experience is a hard teacher. It gives the test before the lesson.”

–“Opportunity knocks only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”

–“Children learn more from models than from critics.”

–“More costly than a good education is the lack of one.”

While they may be true, none is a complete guide to living the good life. The Bible suggests a totally different approach, of course. Wisdom, according to The Proverbs, originates with God, comes to us because we seek it from God and helps us know how to make wise choices that lead to the best kind of life.

There are no shortcuts. There’s no single pithy saying or catchy slogan that encompasses it all. Except maybe this: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6).

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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