Sunday, October 05, 2008

Jesus or Cola?

As I pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald's today, I thought about whether or not I should buy a soft drink to wash down my other selections from the dollar menu. The conversation in my head went something like this:

A Coke with my double cheeseburger would be awesome, but I've already had a cola today, and if I just get water, I'll get out of here wasting less cash and saving more calories.

I love Coca-Cola, and although I try not to make impulse buys, sometimes I fiend for a swig of the caramel-colored nectar in the late afternoon. Like a cheap addict, I've resorted to collecting Coke caps and cartons from recycling bins and trash cans for the reward points. Eight caps scores a free 20-ounce Coke, which means that I can save $1.50 when my next binge hits.

As I drove up to the window to pick up my water, I thought about how absurd it is that we spend money on cola when restaurants offer water for free. Packed with high fructose corn syrup, acids and food coloring, Coke isn't great for your teeth, and it doesn't do much for your body either. Water, on the other hand is the basic element we need to stay alive. It makes up 70 percent of our bodies and has zero calories.

Compared side by side on these factors, water seems the easy favorite. The spoiler in the equation is that little thing called taste. Although water is a necessity, it's also bland. Coke is sweet. With short-term pleasure as its goal, the part of the brain that thinks about the long-term impact shuts down.

Sometimes Jesus is like water to me. He's the necessity. He's pure. And He's free. You'd think he'd be the easy choice. But I often turn away from him and choose the saccharine substitutes the world offers, even digging through the trash of sin to finance a fix when there's a faucet pouring with life just inside my front door.

Photo: Old World of Coke building at Underground Atlanta. Copyright Trevor Williams 2004.

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