I’m reading through a book right now called “Essentialism”, and apart from being a really helpful book, it is also full of several anecdotes, illustrations, etc. One of them has really struck me and stuck with me. There is a term called “sunk-cost bias” and the basic idea of it is that once we’ve invested our resources into something, we tend to have an irrational loyalty to it, despite the fact that the continued pursuit or investment isn’t solvent, is a wasted ventured, or is heading towards disaster.
This is why casinos work so well, because they exploit this irrational tendency to continue to invest in something, even though we’re losing money and gaining nothing, simply because we’ve invested in it. The classic example of this was the Concord planes that Britain and France built; it became clear very quickly that these planes cost more to build, run, and maintain than they were worth. The market was never there, and never would be there and still the governments continued to prop these planes along, despite continuing and increasing losses.
It exposes how much we cherish our money and our resources that even once we’ve tied a rock to them and thrown them in the lake and they’ve sunk to the bottom, we still consider it ours, and somehow think of it as an extension of us and “ours”. We will such investments to succeed and long for them to reflect well upon us, even when it becomes clear that they are only dragging more of our resources down with them!
This has very obvious and practical financial implications, like cut your losses, and walk away from dumb investments. Don’t keep pouring money into something that will never make any returns.
But, I have continued to think about how the “sunk-cost bias” mentality can drag a soul down to hell. We think that by our own merit we can earn eternal life, and thus we invest in a scheme of works-righteousness that only increases our debt of sinful pride towards a holy God. We know that our labor can never save us, and our conscience testifies to us that we will never be good enough; but still we try and insist on trying. Scripture tells us that our righteousness is a filthy rag, but we somehow think that God is maybe a collector of old rags and if I could give Him a large enough quantity of filthy rags, then maybe He would look with favor upon us.
What we must realize is that God is indeed a collector of old, dirty, slimy, stinky rags; but He takes them to destroy them (not display them), and He replaces them with His own perfectly righteous cut of cloth. Mind you, these old rags of ours will never be the means whereby we may have reconciliation with God; rather, it is by confessing the wickedness of these rags, relinquishing them to God, and receiving a borrowed righteousness through His son Jesus.
The more one endeavors to please God by self-righteous means, the more unrighteous he is becoming. It is arrogance to try to appease God by righteous works in the first place, but to keep trying after one knows the futility of such effort, that is sheer rebellion. Don’t give in to the “sunk-cost bias” spiritually (or financially)! Isaiah tells us that the new covenant of Christ would “[…] give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Is. 61:3).” The deal that self-righteousness offers is like a stock holder of the Titanic, while aboard, trying sell you part of his share in it, as it is at a 45º angle! The deal Christ offers is one to go all in on.