A 1990 Sports Illustrated Magazine[1] had on its title page “Your Sneakers or Your Life” with the words “Sneakers and team jackets are hot, sometimes too hot. Kids are being mugged, even killed, for them. Who’s at fault?” For 15-year-old Michael Thomas, it was definitely the shoes. His 17-year-old basketball buddy was charged with Michael’s murder, after taking his two-week-old Air Jordan basketball shoes and leaving his barefoot body in the woods near their school. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketballer of his day and the face of Nike at the time, reads an account of the young man’s death that a reporter has shown him. Profoundly moved, he says, “I thought people would try to emulate the good things I do, they’d try to achieve, to be better. Nothing bad. I never thought because of an endorsement of a shoe, or any product, that people would harm each other.[2]

Having hardwired our planet electronically into one global system, “The marketers of McWorld are celebrating the fact that, for the first time in history, they have created a borderless youth market in which they can sell their Nikes … anywhere on the globe … they have found ways not to just sell the young their products, but to change their values so that they want to buy their products.[3]

We observe each day, the power of the consumer story grips the heart of our children through the images and brand statements that capture their imaginations. Identity becomes bound up in what they wear and purchase. If you want to be like the famous basketballer, you must wear the right gear. Advertising then seeks to enculturate a belief that you have a right to something because you are special – a sense of entitlement is developed. As a women’s cosmetic advertising campaign points out, because you are worth it, you deserve it.

We must ask ourselves – how can we unmask this idolatry that feeds on “the craving of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does …” (1 John 2:16).  How are we to be counter-cultural to the focus of education on individual achievement for the goal of personal advancement so often seen in economic terms? How will we, in our school context, reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus in serving others and meeting their needs, both within and beyond the school gates? For students must see embodied a different story that will captivate their hearts and minds and be invited to locate their lives in this grand story.

When designing teaching and learning, we want to not just equip knowers but to form doers, whose loves and desires are orientated to the Saviour who loves them. We want the Lord to use us to co-operate with His Spirit as He seeks to re-order their hearts to love what God commands and promises. If we are to design teaching and learning shaped by love for God and others, then we need the Spirit of God and our brothers and sisters in Christ, to help us develop “sustaining stories, habits, routines and patterns of practice of which to live and teach.”[4]

How do we help our children (in age-appropriate ways) to critique this way of thinking and living that says the good life is found in materialism?  What are the consequences? With my Year 10 Commerce students, I presented a similar article about young people who were being attacked by poorer students who couldn’t afford Nike clothes and shoes. In doing so, they explored the deeper issues related to idolatry and the orientation of a person’s heart and reasons why young people would act in such destructive ways. We were able to explore the distortion of the marketplace where a product becomes very expensive, not because of its material value, but the image that you are buying. This raised the issues of justice and stewardship.

Can you think of times when you found yourself feeling uncomfortable about the values communicated by the teaching resources and class processes? David Watson, in his book “On Christian Teaching” [5] says, in reference to teaching a different language, he says, “I taught in a curriculum framed by … the flourishing of the consumer self, even as my own sense of self and calling was tethered to the Christian themes of love of God and neighbour.” Many of the images and much of the content in the textbooks were around international tourism, staying in good hotels, eating in nice restaurants, and understanding the people’s hobbies, clothing and customs. Questions to be asked were around asking direction to tourist sites and buying products and services. Here, the curriculum of the language classroom was offering students an understanding of language learning as a means of social mobility and economic utility. It was about the consumer-self. In the study of a language, there was a lack of rich narrative context to depict the world of the people whose language they were learning. “… they do not pray, suffer, die, celebrate, face difficult moral choices, lament … tell meaningful stories, work at relationships.”[6]

What if the teaching of language was a counteraction to self-love, honouring others and treating them with dignity? What if our pedagogy in language learning could assist to breakdown cultural barriers and help our students to understand the rich stories that have shaped that culture? How might our students communicate in the language to understand these people more deeply? What questions may they ask?

Consider a subject you teach. What heart orientation will it reinforce in the lives of the students? What issues around materialism will they need to think critically about? Does the learning lead them to offer sacrifices of love to others in need?

For a story to be believable, the storyteller must be passionate and convinced that their story is true. May the Lord richly bless you as you seek to demonstrate the wonder of the new creation, where all our human loves are rightly ordered around the reign of our beloved King Jesus.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)[7]


Grace and Peace
TEC Team





[1] Rick Telander,Who’s to blame as kids kill kids over Nike’s Air Jordans? – Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com.
DOI: https://vault.si.com/vault/1990/05/14/senseless-in-americas-cities-kids-are-killing-kids-over-sneakers-and-other-sports-apparel-favored-by-drug-dealers-whos-to-blame

[2] Rick Telander,Who’s to blame as kids kill kids over Nike’s Air Jordans? – Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com.
DOI: https://vault.si.com/vault/1990/05/14/senseless-in-americas-cities-kids-are-killing-kids-over-sneakers-and-other-sports-apparel-favored-by-drug-dealers-whos-to-blame

[3] Tom Sine, Mustard Seed versus McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future, (USA: Baker Books, 1999), 96.

[4] Trevor Cairney, Pedagogy and Education for Life, (USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2018), 26.

[5] David I. Smith, On Christian Teaching: Practicing Faith in the Classroom, (USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2018), 52.

[6] David I Smith, On Christian Teaching: Practicing Faith in the Classroom, (USA: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing, 2018), 52.

[7] NIV