You Are NOT Like A Pizza Box

Original Publication Date
August 21, 2015
Updated
Jan 10, 2023 12:18 AM
Tags
Bad TheologyPastors and Ministry

Below is a video of Pastor Jentezen Franklin comparing mankind to a pizza box that went viral today on my Facebook timeline.

Initially, I didn't pay the video any attention; then I saw that not only had a large number of my friends shared the video, but someone had commented "let me be empty!" under one of the posts. This seemed odd to me, so I decided to take a look at the video.

Initially, I was in total agreement with his metaphor. He begins by pointing out that a pizza box has a very low value, it's the pizza inside that gives it value. He likens this to people, suggesting that it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside but what you have inside is what makes you a valuable person. He goes on to say the pizza box is a vessel for the pizza, just as we are a vessel for God. This is a well formed and accurate analogy.  However, he doesn't stop there. He further postulates that we must be clean and empty (like the pizza box) to find God. This is where this sermon goes horribly wrong.

I got into a conversation with one of the posters about why I disliked his conclusion, and the more I thought about it the more I disliked it. So, I've decided to point out what is wrong with the statement that you have to be "clean and empty" for God.

1. The Issue of Cleanliness

We all know the saying "cleanliness is next to godliness," and while the Bible does place a lot of emphasis on cleanness, in Mathew 15 Jesus informs the Pharisees that it is perfectly fine for the disciples to eat/handle their bread without washing their hands. We'll give the pastor the benefit of the doubt that and assume that he didn't mean "clean" so much as pure and without sin. Most people believe that sin cannot exist in the presence of God—it seems that the pastor is making the assumption that God cannot exist in the presence of sin. This can be debunked easily. In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus saves a woman who is repeatedly called a sinner. Saul was a persecutor of Christians when Jesus appeared to him, saved him, and made him Paul the Apostle (Act 8-9).  God and Satan have a conversation in Job 1.  You get the point, you don't have to be devoid of sin (or "clean" as the pastor has claimed) for God to make use of you. If you let Him, God will do the cleaning once you meet. The idea that God and sin cannot exist together is about how you proceed after God has saved you—when you know better, you do better—but we can never be perfectly clean.

2. Emptiness Leaves Room For Anything

Sure, a pizza goes into an empty pizza box...

If the pizza box is in a pizza parlor. If the pizza box somehow ends up in a Burger King, someone might put a burger and fries in it. If the pizza box is on the street, someone might use it over their head as shelter from the rain or they might let their animal relieve themself in it so they can clean behind them easily. A pizza only ends up in the empty pizza box if the pizza box is in the right place.

Furthermore, a shoddy employee can put a burnt pizza in the box. Or a half a pizza. Or the wrong pizza. There's nothing there to stop the wrong thing from being placed in the box. When you translate this from the metaphor back with real life, what fills and empty person depends on where that person is in life.

Upon searching for an image of an empty pizza box, the above image from
Upon searching for an image of an empty pizza box, the above image from pixshark actually appeared fairly high in the google search proving anything can be placed in a pizza box.

3. Emptiness is not a Positive

Again, when you move the metaphor from pizza box to human, you go from an empty pizza box to an empty human. An empty human is not something you want to be called. Empty in front of anything is pretty much a negative: empty headed, empty pockets, empty stomach, empty fridge... Empty is not good. To be empty is to be devoid, lacking, and without meaning/purpose (that is the definition of empty, actually). Emptiness is the number one cause of people spiraling into bad behavior: drug use, alcoholism, violence, depression... Also, with emptiness comes a desire to fill the emptiness, and the devil will prey on this desire just to steer people in the wrong direction.  You don't want to be empty. You want something inside you that is able to discern right from wrong. You want something inside you that gives you a desire to seek out God.

A Better Suggestion

If you want to make this pastor's metaphor work and compare yourself to an inanimate object, be like a vending machine. It's useful and valuable because of the product inside it, regardless of its dents, dings, scratches, etc., but it can tell the difference between a dollar and a piece of paper. This ability is not because its empty, but because it is filled with the mechanics it needs to differentiate between a sham and real money. Similarly, you should be filled with the ability to recognize right and wrong, truth and untruth. The vending machine has bolts and pulleys, you have The Word and prayer. So please, do not go into the world trying to be like a pizza box!

🙏🏽
PSALMS to God is a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel that discusses many topics and issues, always keeping YHWH as the anchor. Hosea 4:6 says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”—here, the aim is to always ask questions and study to find the answers. You can keep up with new content by signing up for the weekly newsletter.

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