Selling Sugar Water or Changing the World?

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Chris Comstock, Campus Crusade for Christ at UCSB

In 1983, Steve Jobs, founder of a relatively small upstart computer company called Apple, barely 4 years old at the time, strides into the office of then Pepsi-co President John Sculley and pitches the idea for Sculley to come work for Apple as their chief executive. This was not the first time this opportunity had been pitched to Sculley but it may have been the last. Steve Job’s pitch, as Sculley recalls it in his own words, went something like this: “He looked up at me and just stared at me with the stare that only Steve Jobs has and he said, “do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

We now stand 27 years after this event and look back on what has been accomplished by one visionary man who wanted to change the world of computing as we know it. And if you look at the picture above, you will see the hands of hundreds of students raised either with an iPhone or iPod or in confirmation that they own an Apple product. You see, Steve Jobs and Apple did much more than just start a cool, trendy computer company. They not only changed the computing and communication landscape forever, they launched a movement, one that made their products not just fashionable to own, but essential to our lives (or at least the lives of our youth). Steve Jobs set out to change the world but did he really accomplish his goal? Approximately 13 years after the launch of Apple Computers, in February 1996, Wired Magazine interviewed Steve Jobs on where technology had advanced to and where it was going. This is what he said:

Wired: What’s the biggest surprise this technology will deliver?
Jobs: The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.
Wired: That’s going to break people’s hearts.
Jobs: I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much –if at all.

Steve Jobs and John Sculley launched a movement that changed the computing and technology landscape as we know it, but in Jobs’ own words, that stuff doesn’t change the world.  Jobs had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t about computers, it was about people. It turns out that Steve Jobs, as well as John Sculley, had been selling sugar water all along.

I told this story at our first weekly meeting for the new school year. My talk was about the Message and the Movement that changed the world. There have been many movements in this world and throughout history that have promised change. These movements have worked to change societal systems, economic systems or political systems while all the while overlooking the real problem, the true flaw in it all, the broken human system. There has been only one movement that has sought to remedy the root of the problem and demonstrate the power needed to accomplish this, that is the movement of Jesus. Jesus came announcing that God was doing something new, something radical, and that a new kind of Life was available to anyone who thirsted for it, the kind of Life that we all longed for but could never come by on our own and that this Life was only found in Him. The message that he was announcing was the gospel, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… (Romans 1:16).

This gospel is the power of God displayed in Jesus the King, beaten, bleeding, and crucified on a cross, absorbing the effects of all our sin and mistrust of God, and then three days later conquering Death with resurrection Life. My goal for the evening was to make sure these students knew how unique and radical the gospel message was, that God was rescuing his creation, starting with human beings, from Sin and Death. Whether the student was already a Christian and needed to be reminded of this amazing fact, or had very little knowledge of Jesus and the gospel message and needed to hear it for the first time, I wanted these students to understand the fact that Jesus had launched the greatest movement the world has ever seen and the only movement that would bring transformation to the world.

To conclude the evening, I gave them a challenge. I believe that Jesus is asking each one of us the same question as Steve Jobs, and so I asked all 350 of these students sitting in their comfortable theater seats…Are you going to be content selling sugar water during your college career… Or do you want to be a part of bringing this campus, this city, this world the only thing that can truly transform lives and change the world? Just as those students wrestled with this question, my hope is in reading this, that you would, as well. For Jesus is not just asking college students to come with him to change the world.  The invitation is for us all.