Listeners tend to grant trust to communicators who know how to brand and market their ideas rather than communicators of truth. It is a day of style over substance. Paul warned that a time would come when people would turn from the truth and be turned aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:4). In the last days, Jesus said that there would be many false teachers who would deceive many. These false teachers know how to play the branding and marketing game. I read the September 6, 2016, account on Vanity Fair’s website of Theranos, the biotech company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, that has been exposed as a fraud. The story reminded me of the great danger of placing style over substance.
Elizabeth Holmes was lauded and revered by everyone. She was on Forbes’ list last year as one of the wealthiest women on earth with an estimated net worth of more than $4 billion. She was honored at Harvard Business School, did Ted talks, graced the cover of magazines, and raised more than $700 million for her company. She knew the art of communication. She focused on the why and not the what of vision. She told stakeholders like Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and Bill Frist (all served on the Board at one time) that she was going to change the world with one simple pin prick of the fingertip. Hundreds of medical tests could be performed from just the simple drop of blood. Her stockholders bought it. The media, academia, some in the medical community, the military, and the government lined up to buy what she was selling.
Holmes and Theranos stood as one of the leading examples in the biotech field. She was the next Steve Jobs, fully equipped with all of the quirks. Yet, the product was a lie. The technology was a farce. The tests were not accurate. The sample too small. The blood compromised. A company worth $9 billion is now fighting to find any future. Oh, there have been some questions down through the years. Journalists have poked at the secrecy in the company, the technology that is changing the world. Holmes hired David Boies to represent her and the company. Boies became famous as Al Gore’s attorney in the Florida recount. He also was co-counsel in the landmark case at the US Supreme Court that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. The questions have been quiet up until the last few weeks. Holmes is continuing on. She continues to travel and speak as she tries to unravel the web of deception.
Pastors and Christians could learn something from this story. The fake will eventually be exposed. God will examine our work, test it with fire, and reward those who are faithful. Let us be true, authentic, holy and faithful. The world will increasingly reject us. Our brand will be assaulted. But our reward is not our crowds, not our churches, not our followers and friends. Our reward is Christ and His words: “Well Done, good and faithful servant.”