The Economics of Worship

Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Have you ever gone to the store to buy something you thought would cost you $20 and found out that they wanted $50 for it? What did you do? Did you buy the item? Well that depends, doesn’t it? If you’re like me you probably stood there for a few minutes and mulled it over before ultimately making a decision either to buy it or to walk away. What determines the outcome of that choice? What are you considering as you mull this over?

Essentially what you are doing is making a value judgment. You are deciding whether you really need or want that item. What goes into this decision depends in large part on your circumstances and what the item is, but ultimately it comes down to your values. What is important to you? What do you consider to be of greater worth, the item or the $50 you would have to spend on it? Whatever the outcome, you have acted according to your values. You may feel grumpy about the situation, for you may have preferred to buy the item for $20, but if you bought, you showed that you really did value that item more than your $50. If you didn’t buy, you showed that you valued it less than $50.

This is a fundamental principle of economics. If two people engage in trade through voluntary mutual consent, then they both expect to benefit. If I have a pen, and you have $5, and I sell you my pen for $5, then you wanted my pen more than you wanted your $5, and I wanted your $5 more than I wanted my pen. In this case, we both expect to win. Economics is based on this assumption. For who would voluntarily consent to an action they do not expect to benefit from? It’s like two baseball teams. Team A has four good outfielders, but only four good starting pitchers. Team B has only two good outfielders, but six good starting pitchers. So Team A says to Team B, I’ll give you an outfielder for a starting pitcher. Team B thinks it over and agrees. Now both teams are better off because they both have a full outfield and a full starting rotation.

When individuals participate voluntarily in a free market, then it can be assumed that they expect to benefit from the transactions they agree to. If I’m at the store hoping to buy printer ink for $20 and the store wants $50, I have to decide how important it is to me to have that printer ink. If I have a super important document I need to print, then I may just value it that much. If I’m just supporting a hobby, or looking to buy a backup, then I’m likely to pass and wait for a better deal. In any case, my circumstances and my values determine to me which is more important. Indeed, trade is made of win.

But this post isn’t really about economics, it’s about worship. What does this economic principle have to do with worship?

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