By now Ashton Kutcher’s speech at the Teen Choice Awards has made its rounds on the internet, so maybe you’ve seen it. If you haven’t, it is definitely worth watching. He says some pretty good things, and I’d like to comment on them. Here’s the full speech (not the edited one where they clip out some pretty important details):
First, if you don’t know who Ashton Kutcher is, then you might not understand why it’s a big deal that he is saying the things he’s saying. You can probably guess that, as it is the Teen Choice Awards, there are plenty of young people watching. But you might not know that Ashton Kutcher is not some new, fly-by-night, current TV or movie star who just rose up and will disappear in the next couple years. Kutcher has been around for quite a while. His first big movie appearance was The Butterfly Effect in 2004 (he was in some minor roles before that dating back to 1999), he has been in a few dozen movies and TV shows since, and has produced a number of shows, movies, and documentaries as well. He is the creator of the show Punk’d, where he pulls pranks on other big name celebrities and films their reactions. Most recently he has been on the TV show Two and a Half Men, and plays the role of Steve Jobs in the new biographical movie.
So, in short, the guy has reach and influence.
Kutcher made three basic statements in his short speech, and I want to comment on each one and say why I think it was a good statement.
1. Opportunity is hard work. Maybe you’ve heard the Bible passage that says,
“God helps those who help themselves.” -1 Mephibosheth 45:12. Wait, that’s not really a Bible passage, even though lots of people think it is in Scripture. But the principle is actually very Biblical. Scripture indicates in a variety of places that hard work is God pleasing. Proverbs 12:11 says, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 states, “So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot.” Many years later Paul continued the theme: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat'” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
One is hard pressed to find any passage in Scripture that says that a person ought to be allowed to sit on his laurels while others hand him things for free. What we do find is that the Old Testament Law had provisions for those who were destitute and in need – farmers were to leave the crops at the edge of the fields and whatever grains fell on the ground during harvesting, and those who were in need could come and “glean the fields” to get what they needed. But you see, even though God was expecting generosity out of his people, he was also expecting that those who benefited would work for the food they got.
2. Smart is sexy. So much of the media that is aimed at teenagers emphasizes looking sexy and being sexy and dressing sexy. It’s like the main message is, “How you look matters most!” Kutcher’s message turns that notion on its head, especially when he aptly points out that most of that “how you look” message is really just about someone trying to sell something. That’s no big secret to the adult world. But how many teens understand that?
1 Peter 3:3-4 states, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” We see a connection between what Kutcher says and what God says. Kutcher points to intelligence; God takes it a step further, where he emphasizes a certain kind of character.
3. Build your own world. This might be the part of Kutcher’s message that is most “worldly” in its wisdom in that it smacks largely of humanism. But actually, what he has to say applies well to a Christian’s life. Jesus, in his High Priestly Prayer, states clearly that we are not of the world, even though we are in the world. Paul, in Romans 12:1 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” In other words, the Biblical message is that we are not to live the way other people say we are to live. We are to be different. Jesus says that we are salt and light, people who live such different lives we have an impact on the world and others are affected by our presence in the world, because we are not of this world! So what Kutcher says really is very much in line with what Scripture teaches us. Don’t accept the world the way it is presented to us. Be different.
An unlikely source of wisdom? Maybe. I don’t know enough about Kutcher’s life experiences to know how and why he has developed three very good life philosophies and presented them so clearly on such an effective public stage. However, before we get too caught up in what Kutcher had to say, it is important to note what he missed. See, for all his wisdom here he missed the biggest message of wisdom, which is, first of all, that no one is going to ever be able to live up to what he presents. Not perfectly. We are all going to have times when we don’t rise the challenges that opportunity presents. We will be lazy, we will be self-centered, and we will refuse to do the jobs we are given. We will also be swept up in the siren song of sexiness, and succumb to the desire to look good and be held as valuable because of physical appearance. And we will often conform to what this world says is right, rather than going against the stream for Jesus.
That’s why we have Jesus. That’s why he came for us. He had a job to do, and he did. When he wanted to give up, when the job seemed too big, he said, “Father, not my will, but your will be done.” And he didn’t concern himself with being sexy. In fact, Scripture says that “he had no beauty that we would be attracted to him, nothing in his appearance that we would desire him.” I don’t know if Jesus was particularly ugly, or dirty, but he certainly didn’t make a point to wear all the most fashionable clothing and follow the trendiest hair styles. Finally, Jesus was most certainly not of this world, and when people tried to make him an earthly king so that he could give them earthly blessings, he pointed them to a greater kingdom that was to come instead. He sacrificed himself on the cross to take away our sins so that we can be part of that kingdom. He rose from the dead to give us the proof that his kingdom is real, that he is who he said he was, and that he will bring us into his kingdom some day.
So, thank you Ashton (or should I say Chris?) for your wisdom. It is a message that our young people desperately need to hear. Even more important is the message of Jesus. Let’s make sure that both messages come across loud and clear to the youth of our nation.