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Billy Mays TV Pitchman Dies

Another well known personality has passed unexpectedly. According to an AP news report Billy Mays, 50, was found unresponsive by his wife in his Tampa home Sunday morning. The same report indicates that he was interviewed by local television a day earlier after being hit on the head by a falling object when his airliner blew a tire at a rough Tampa Airport landing.

Billy’s friends remember him as a gentle man with a big heart.

I remember Billy’s infomercials for the amazing absorbent Shammy, the Orange Glow, and the OxiClean. They helped to popularize the “But wait! Call now and we’ll send not one but two…” sales formula that has been copied by countless other ” must-have” products that press for an immediate sale.

Admittedly, I’ve been hooked by some of those too-good-to-be-true pitches over the years.  Have bought some of the “As seen on TV” wonder products that never quite lived up to the hype. Made me pretty skeptical whenever I see the often imitated direct response clones.

Unfortunately, the public perception of these “call now” product pitches is not as significant or as serious as the similar reputation that follows “the Gospel”.

It’s almost too painful to think about the way the credibility of the “good news” of Christ has been pitched for immediate response, for dollars, and for numbers. Who can estimate the damage done to the real truth and urgency of the message that has been cheapened and damaged by exaggerated claims of immediate benefits, scare-tactics, and the hidden agenda of gospel pitchmen?

The Apostle Paul seems to have encountered a similar problem early on. He wrote about not wanting to be like those tried to merchandise the Gospel to line their own pockets (In 2Cor 2:17 he refers to the danger of the using the gospel to make money. The KJV word “corrupt” has the meaning of  “to peddle, or sell something for monetary profit”.)

Interestingly, Paul still regarded the message of Christ to be a matter of all due urgency and of unparalleled importance. He was not hesitant to say that now is the only sure opportunity we have to accept Christ. So he wrote to the Corinthians, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2Cor 6:2).

But in saying that, the Apostle also went to almost indescribable lengths to make it clear that he wasn’t using Jesus for money. If you have any doubts about the man many regard as the first-century’s #1 salesman for Christ, read again what he endured to show that his own deep confidence in a message that way too many believe is too good to be true (2Cor 6:3-11).

In Billy’s passing, and in light of the depth of the Apostle Paul’s integrity, am thinking how important it is for every part of our lives to resonate with the claims we make for Christ.

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28 Responses to “Billy Mays TV Pitchman Dies”

  1. chfranke says:

    It sure is interesting to see how your mind works. Making a connection between Billy Mays and Paul as brother pitchmen…well, I never would have thunk it.

    I beg to differ on one small point. You said “the Apostle also went to almost indescribable lengths to make it clear that he wasn’t pitching Jesus for money.”
    Yet Paul did say in the pasage you quoted, “…poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” If I were in the crowd (and my goal in life was to make money at every opportunity) my ears would be perking up at that.
    So Paul, in a way, was pitching to make people rich to get their attention and if they followed through on his offer they would end up rich, just not in the way they first thought.

  2. SFDBWV says:

    Some time ago when the Pope died, the church went through the ritual of naming a new pope. After only one month that pope died. So the entire process had to be repeated. Pope John Paul was the result. A man many admired weither catholic or not. it would seem the Holy Spirit won out over politics.

    It was during that process I heard a priest make a statement that i have used many times over my lifetime.

    “There is nothing as certain as death nor as uncertain as when it comes”.

    The TV pitches make it seem as if we can’t live without buying their product.

    The Christian message is that you can’t die without our product. And it’s free!

  3. OGramps says:

    Good morning to All!

    Chuck I agree. I would never have made a connection of Billy Mays to Paul as a fellow pitchman, Mart you are amazing.

    I liked Billy personality and will miss him. I am praying for his family as I do for all celebs who pass whether I like them or not.

    Yes, it is a shame that throughout history many despicable things have been done in the name of Jesus Christ. I personally feel that our enemy uses these things to sow tares with the wheat.

    So how do I reconcile this in my mind? I take consolation in the fact that this life is just temporary and so amazingly short and that our just and righteous Savior will in the end make certain that they receive their reward, however is may not be the reward they’re looking for.

    I know that many, in good conscience, try to reach the unbelieving with “pitches” and become a stumbling block. In their zeal so many times the work of the Holy Spirit to prepare a potentially receptive heart for salvation is forgotten.

    The one thing we can always count on is prayer. I have seen that the fervent effectual prayer of the righteouss does avail much. People do become awakend to their need of Christ when someone is continually praying for them.

    Perhaps the best pitch is by the Saints on their knees to God.


  4. rokdude5 says:

    I, too, agree with Steve, that a lot terrible things have been done to other in Jesus’ name. Ghandi once said that he loved Christianity but he couldnt stand Christians.

    I know I feel like a hypocrit when I do sin. This is why I dont have a fish on the back of my car or wear a crucifix openly. Please dont look at hypocritically me but look up at the One who never been a hypocrit.

    To me being a pitchman is trying to persuade someone to give up some hard earned $ for a particular product or service. Jesus and His disciples (and us followers)arent really trying to “sell” anything. Like SFD said, we are all trying to GIVE IT AWAY for FREE! Its a complete Gift just for taking.

  5. wretch-like-me says:

    I must admit that hearing of the passing of Billy May brought to mind other great pitchmen in their time. Turning back the pages of time reveals names that include Ron Popeil (purveyor of prodigious products and a plethora of popular phrases including… but wait, there’s MORE!… NOW, how much would you pay?… (and best of all)…IF you act within the next 5 minutes!!!).

    How many of us recall another great pitchman who once sold shoes in Chicago but went on to greater heights in salesmanship that included the founding of Moody Bible Institute?

    Perhaps the greatest ‘pitchman for Christ’ in our times is another Billy we havent mentioned… Billy Graham.

    God gives each of us talents… Sadly, some of us use them for immediate gain and earthly profits… others find eternal reward more satisying.

    Which am I? Can I accept delayed gratification and reject the temptation for ‘shortcuts’ or will I be deceived by the ‘pitchman from hell’ who promises that I can… “Enjoy it NOW and PAY LATER!!!”


  6. HEY REV says:

    Hey wretch-like-me: Let me remind you of another one W.C. Fields whose phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute”
    God used Moody Bible to have me get SAVED so they have a special part in my life, and Wheaton College, same one Billy Graham went.

    Many times when I’m trying to get across to anyone who will listen, I get very excited about accepting Jesus. My wife tells me I could overcoats on a hot beach. When almost anything is an absolute with me (and Jesus is) I’ll try and preach that like even Mart said, “I just have to buy that, because I think I need it” I want to come across to where they somehow know, “I’ve got to have what he has. Not soo sure what it all is but it must be wonderful.”
    Don’t mis-read me here. Soterology (study of Salvation) is very important to me. I want it to be my every day walk. I came to close to leave this dirt (earth) without knowing my Jesus. It scares me to think right now someone just went from dirt to fire.
    I ONLY will answer for all my works/words here and I believe in SOLID INVESTMENT for my future.
    Maybe we need to get the fire that was in Billy Mays into some of us to stir us up[ again
    Good analogy again Mart.
    God Bless all (from) Hey Rev.

  7. OGramps says:


    Pitchman from hell…. That’s a good one :-) He was selling a bill of goods in the garden wasn’t he?

  8. tandgmartin says:

    Sad to say, in our area, some churches have gone into the real estate business. A church will buy a large parcel of land, subdivide it and keep a portion for a new church building, and building family homes on the remainder in the hopes of the proceeds off the sale of the houses paying for the new church building. In our own neighborhood, one church that did this is sitting there in a beautiful finished building, but not one house has been built in its subdivision. One can only imagine the financial strain of a congregation paying the mortgage while awaiting the “jackpot” when the houses are finally built. In this real estate depression, that may be some time yet.
    This may not be what some regard as being on topic, but it struck me as a similar topic when the church goes into profit-making mode and emphasizes their bottom line.

  9. plumbape says:

    WLM > man I loved the comments, something just clicked while reading it that made the LIGHT come on…! I think the Spirit answered some questions and the phone rang which was the answer to a prayer!!! Thank you Jesus and all the serious people in Christ on this blog.

    The tears are making it hard to type…. I’ll be back.

  10. Rick123 says:

    There are pitchmen that only try to sell the NT or the OT, and I call that an imbalance of power, any imbalance in the study of the Word only brings imbalance in doctrine. They are the judaizers, judaizers were those who enforced the belief that Gentiles had to live like Jews, including circumcision, to be Jewish and follow Jesus. We know that circumcision is of the heart by Christ’s Spirit, Paul spread the gospel message of freedom in Christ, which upset the Judaizers, and they did what they could to discredit Paul. The other group are they that say that the law of God is no longer biding upon the believer. But scripture says another story, that God’s Son Jesus will teach us from the law(Isa 2:3; Zec 14:16-21)…How say the Church that the SYSTEM OF TITHING is biding upon us, and even though we are no longer under the law, seems to me that I see two faces here. Jesus did teach us to give and it shall be given unto us. This is my favorite passage: Luk 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again…Most Christians don’t believe this passage, lets examine this passage. Christ said GIVE and it shall be GIVEN unto YOU…GOOD MEASURE…PRESSED DOWN…and SHAKEN together…and RUNNING OVER, shall MEN GIVE into YOUR BOSOM…For with the SAME MEASURE that YE METE withal it shall be MEASURED to YOU AGAIN.

    I have put this passage to the test and it’s promise is faithful, my sister gives me between 500 and 700 dollars a month for free, and buys me cloths and a lot of other stuff. God has given me some ideas(inventions), I have a prototype high performance muffler on my pick up that does not make to much sound. I believe that is God’s way of giving so that I may give to others.

    Give to anyone in need, give to the brother or sister in need from your Church, give to keep the Church running and active.

    I believe that God our Father is the greatest giver of all, for he gave us his greatest treasure, Jesus….2Cr 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

  11. praisehimalleluia says:

    In my journey to Christianity, there were countless people who were indeed helpful to me. No doubt I encountered many situations when I walked into many Christian Bookstores to window shop in order to get my first Bible. I am so new and the Christians seated at the counter are very interested to make money by giving me books which are on higher prices unreasonably, rather than evangelise to a new person.

    But I prayed earnestly that God grants help for me to obtain my so desired book – The Holy Bible for a cheap price cause I believe the Word of God should be at lowest cost as possible for every mankind. Not sold at a price to gain profit. In Malaysia, the bookstores heaped up the prices to an amazing price level I can’t afford being a jobless person with limited income. I was surprised the Word of God being tagged a price that was unreasonable.

    Thus I left the bookstores but when online instead. This is amazing…I just wrote via email to a few Christian Organization about me interested in the Bible but can’t afford one. I just needed something simple to learn the Word of God.

    I had 3 Christian organizations from USA, Australia and UK who was eager to send me a Bible for free on separate occasions. And it was a coincident that I obtained all 3 bibles at different times over a period of 2 weeks. And they sent me a good quality bible – NKJV, NIV and KJV each.

    And there was 1 organization from Canada that sent me Christian books for spiritual growth. This was a blessing for me.

    To me, there are some who are truly seeking to spread God’s Word without putting a price tag on the WORD OF GOD.

    I believe each Christians today should have the spirit of that Organization to obtain donations in order to spread God’s Word to those who thirst for it. As you do, God continues to bless in abundance, and I noticed this when I started giving out free Bibles to my friends who asks me. (It was after awhile that another fellow Christian friend of mine introduced me to a Christian Bookstore which was very good in setting only reasonable price for God’s Word and books related to evangelising. There were Bibles as low as MYR12 with good printing quality)

    It’s a pleasure to trade for God’s Kingdom without the profit in our eyes cause we are Fishers of Men for God’s Kingdom.

    I praise the Lord for such good experience with good people who show graciousness since God is very gracious to me in times when I needed Him most.

    I praise the Lord over and over again. Alleluia

  12. kaliko88 says:

    I think sometimes that’s why I’m hesitant to talk about my beliefs, because I’m afraid I’ll sound like I’m “selling” something, or be too pushy. It seems like more and more of the people I do talk to have not taken the step to believe because they have run into people like that. It’s kind of embarrassing, in an indirect way, to hear about those incidents.

  13. pegramsdell says:

    Rick123, good word on the giving.
    We do need to remember, however, that we cannot live by the law. Nor should we want to. It is by grace that we have been saved. Sometimes we need to pluck the wheat and eat it, cause it’s the right thing to do. :)

  14. foreverblessed says:

    Just to show how generous Christ is:

    “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them.”
    John 17:22
    BEHOLD the superlative liberality of the Lord Jesus, for He hath given us His all. Although a tithe of His possessions would have made a universe of angels rich beyond all thought, yet was He not content until He had given us all that He had. It would have been surprising grace if He had allowed us to eat the crumbs of His bounty beneath the table of His mercy; but He will do nothing by halves, He makes us sit with Him and share the feast. Had He given us some small pension from His royal coffers, we should have had cause to love Him eternally; but no, He will have His bride as rich as Himself, and He will not have a glory or a grace in which she shall not share. He has not been content with less than making us joint-heirs with Himself, so that we might have equal possessions. He has emptied all His estate into the coffers of the Church, and hath all things common with His redeemed. There is not one room in His house the key of which He will withhold from His people. He gives them full liberty to take all that He hath to be their own; He loves them to make free with His treasure, and appropriate as much as they can possibly carry. The boundless fulness of His all-sufficiency is as free to the believer as the air he breathes. Christ hath put the flagon of His love and grace to the believer’s lip, and bidden him drink on forever; for could he drain it, he is welcome to do so, and as he cannot exhaust it, he is bidden to drink abundantly, for it is all his own. What truer proof of fellowship can heaven or earth afford?
    “When I stand before the throne,
    Dressed in beauty not my own;
    When I see Thee as Thou art,
    Love Thee with unsinning heart;
    Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
    Not till then—how much I owe.”

    This is C.H. Spurgeon, from the morning meditations june 30

  15. refump says:

    A former talk show host use to have a segment called “things that make you go hmmmmmm”. One thing that always makes me go hmmmmmmm is a topic brought up by praisehimalleluia, that being, the “selling/marketing” of Bibles & other writings by Christian authors for profit. If someone has be inspired by the Holy spirit to write a book on dealing with a spiritual issue of any kind(you name it)why does it cost us $$$ to find that out. I know many Christian authors do give a large portion of the profits of their books back to furthering the gospel but their is still a lot profit made by many of them that goes into their pockets. Isn’t this “selling” the gospel? I see the same thing going on in the Christian music industry. Christians are being given a gift to sing, write, teach God’s Word & are making a profit at the expense of others.I get an email everyday from an on-line “Christian” book store wanting to sell me “the answer to my problem” or “help me grow closer to the God” or enhance my spirituality in a number of ways. They can’t just give me the answer-I have to pay for it. Makes me go hmmmmmmmmmm…………

  16. xrgarza says:

    Recently the Lord has been teaching me new things about finances that I have never heard from behind the pulpit. The Lord took me to Deuteronomy 26, when the children of Israel were in bondage for 400 years, or even in the desert for 40 years they were not required to pay tithes or offerings. It was not until they took possession of the land that was promised to them as an inheritance and were settled there that they were required to bring their tithes.

    This tells me that when we are in bondage, financially or otherwise we are not required to until we get out of bondage. Yes the promises of God are true, but I believe first things first, get out of bondage first. God’s mercy and grace allowed the children of Israel to get out of bondage first then He required them to bring their tithes and offerings. His yolk is easy and His burden is light.

    Secondly, I went into full time ministry became a 501-C3 organization I was not able to raise a dime recently I have been learning about our forefathers the Apostle Paul never once took an offering to build up his ministry, no he continued to make tents, Jesus was a carpenter. Early In our generation priest and even pastors would take vows of poverty for the Gospel.

    I know that many ministers would disagree with me simply because I am speaking into their livelihood, so many have capitalized on Hope and on the Gospel when these have already been paid for at the cross.

    I love that RBC provides devotionals at no cost to millions; this is so refreshing one does not have to capitalize on hope to be successful.


  17. rokdude5 says:

    Yesterday evening, my 80 year old mother-in-law passed away after an arduous bout with cancer. My well-to-do unbelieving brother-in-law is besides himself dealing with his mother’s death. The rest of the family made up of various denominations were at peace with her death.

    This morning as I did my usual RBC Daily Bread reading, I came across the Ten Reasons Why We Believe in a God Who Allows Sufferings. Once again God uses RBC to speak to me especially at this difficult time. Was it coindecental? We all know it was not.

    I want to publicly thanks all those who have been praying for us and to thank RBC for being there. Im thinking about reading that article at her memorial service. Hopefully, my brother-in-law will accept the Best Gift of all. Praise God!!!

  18. wretch-like-me says:

    A word of encouragement…dont let Satan confuse the issue. Fearing you might be misunderstood is not trusting that the Holy Spirit is able to take our weakest effort and make it a ‘bold step of faith’.

    Take courage, little one, we have a mighty Shepherd who stands ready to rescue us from all predators. However, we must put aside our fears and place our trust in HIM. Keep your eyes on Jesus and Fear Not, For the Lord is with You!!

    Be filled with the Spirit and speak the truth humbly of what the Lord Jesus has done for you, personally. No One can dispute your personal experience.

    When fears of being mistaken for a ‘pitchman’ remember that you are ‘selling nothing’ you’re giving it away.


  19. wretch-like-me says:

    HEY REV:
    Beggin’ your pardon, I believe it was P.T.Barnum rather than W.C.Fields who coined the phrase…However, they were both in the same category and equally jaded.

    I would like to hear more of how you define the difference in a ‘tithe’ and an ‘offering’…especially the ‘fellowship offering’ spoken of in earlier texts.

  20. pegramsdell says:

    rokdude5, sorry for your loss. May God bless you and your family during this time. peg

  21. Beeb says:

    This is certainly “something to think about”. Hopefully, it is also an encouragement that, if someone can get that excited about Oxyclean; then how much more should we be excited about the Savior. Thanks for making these blogs interesting!

  22. daisymarygoldr says:

    Good topic and great comparison of the TV Pitchman and Paul. Agree that our lives should resonate with the claims we make for Christ and follow the example of Paul to “not peddle the word of God for profit”. Those who make a merchandise of the Good News will surely have their due reward in the end… i.e. endless scourging of the whip:(

    You are right, it is too painful to think about the way the credibility of the good news of Christ has been pitched… and it is all the more painful to see an adulterous generation that seeks after signs of healing or prosperity and willfully lusts to exchange the truth of God for a lie.

    Unfortunately, to be hooked by some of those too-good-to-be-true pitches do have eternal consequences. Hence, one cannot afford to be gullible no matter how cleverly the truth is twisted and packaged to be promoted as a lie.

    Peter tells us to be careful of pitchmen that make up clever lies to get hold of our money (2 Peter 2:3). However, the tragedy of human saga is: ever since day one, no one desires the truth. To Eve, God’s Law of “Eat this and don’t eat that” was hard and least appealing.

    In fact, even when there was a clear forewarning… “in the day that you eat… you shall surely die” she was quick to dismiss it as merely some scare-tactic of the Law giver. Instead, she chose to believe the Lawless one because the concocted version of the truth presented by the father of lies was so pleasant and gratifying.

    The Bible gives us ample warnings about pitchmen a.k.a lawless men who will deceive God’s people in the last days. While I may not be responsible for the pitches, I am responsible for whether I believe and buy into it or not. Just like Eve, I will be called to accountability for choosing to believe a lie.

    By shifting the blame on the “pitchman from hell” Eve did not escape the judgment of God. Likewise it will do me no good by casting the blame on those who pitch, promote or peddle the Gospel. “Therefore, dear friends, since you are well-warned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” (2 Peter 3:17).

    rokdude5, my prayers and thoughts are with you and your loved ones as you grieve the passing away of your mother-in-law.

  23. saled says:

    I’ve been guilty of pitching the gospel. I used to think that I needed to reward the children in my Sunday School class for learning verses. The reward might be candy, or might be some larger prize for more verses learned. I didn’t realize that the rewards would make the kids value the prize and not God’s word. Committing a verse to memory should be done out of love for the verse, and not for the bribe. I guess I thought that my bribe would lead to a spiritual benefit for the kids, but I’m afraid just the opposite might be true. I’m sorry that I thought I had to provide an incentive for kids to love God’s word.

  24. daisymarygoldr says:

    saled, pitching is when the Gospel is preached to make a monetary profit to line our own pockets or to convert people with false promises of riches and good health… for the purpose of gaining more number of people.

    Rewarding kids for memorizing verses is not equivalent to pitching. It is to motivate them to work hard for something that will help them earn spiritual dividends in terms of eternal rewards. I know many consider it as bribing, but I don’t see it that way. I don’t give candy treats because of the sugar, but I do recognize their efforts by letting them be the line-leader, teacher’s helper etc. My child’s Sunday school teacher gives them special prizes and it really helps boost her enthusiasm to memorize scriptures.

    Children do not have the ability to decide what is good and what is bad for them and before the world sows its wisdom, it is so important for God’s word to be planted in the fertile soil of their hearts. It is only as they grow older they will begin to know and understand the scriptures by experience and it is then that they will develop love for the Word and will embrace it as life itself. That is my personal testimony…

  25. wretch-like-me says:

    I wouldnt take it too badly. There are many good programs that offer rewards to children for memorizing scripture verses including AWANA(one of the largest and best recognized). Some offer merit badges for their uniforms or tokens/’bonus bucks’ that can be traded for ‘earthly’ prizes.

    Scripture teaches that a good worker is worthy of his reward. In the days of Christ, workers were paid at the end of each work day. Translating earthly reward for earthly labors into spiritual rewards for spiritual work is a logical progression and a good stepping stone for young minds to trod.

    It may not seem difficult for young minds to master memory tasks; yet, when I consider the competition for their attention from the world I would much rather have their minds focused on scripture memory than the trash that blares at them from all sides… TV, radio, movies.

    I agree that there is reward beyond value in the verse alone; however, let us not discount value of the labor involved or the time devoted or in the case of us, elders, the mental ability that seems to fade with age.

    Bless you for your work with children. I shall never forget the verse…”Train up a child in the way he/she should go and when they are old they shall not depart from it.” There is much wisdom in this verse that seems to foretell what a great many of us experience in our adolescent thru early adult years…a wayward path.

    Motivation is a very personal thing and sometimes in the beginning it takes ‘baby steps’ to move from immature to the mature motivations. Afterall, what we are really talking about is developing new habits to replace old habits and habits can be extremely stubborn when challenged by newer (hopefully better) ones. Just ask a long term tobacco user or most any American who is overweight and trying to restructure the way we eat and increase exercise.

    How many of us would continue to work the jobs we do if our paychecks stopped??


  26. rokdude5 says:

    Thanks Peg. RJ

  27. bubbles says:

    I attended AWANAS (church club) for 5 or 6 years when I was little. We memorized many, many verses for tokens, patches, and trophies.

    My friend and I would study, study, study each week to learn the verses in the handbooks. Often we would compete with each other to see who could learn the most verses. We both won the patches, charms, and trophies.

    After I grew up, I looked back on why I learned the verses; and have felt guilt for doing it for the ‘rewards.’

    However, when I began teaching, the Holy Spirit brought many of those verses back to memory when they were needed. The students would say, “Hey, that’s and AWANA verse!” (The were in the club too.)

    The trophies are in a box in a basement–perhaps thrown away by now. I don’t care where they are. The real trasure was the Word of God. I can still remember many of those verses–in spite of the wrong motivations.

    It seems like when a verse is memorized and meditated over, it becomes part of who you are, and it changes you in good ways. Verses memorized become yours, and they cannot ever be taken away. That is a good thing.
    Hope this was an encouragement to you.

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