Cost-Benefit Analysis


I was pleasantly surprised by the exuberant and encouraging response to my challenge to abstain from unnecessary media. However, I was not surprised by the many people who began to courageously encourage people to give up many other things as well, such as: computers, secular music and books, checking email and blogs, the Rebelution, technology, Facebook, sound, texting, internet, ipods, mp3 players, and electronics. Some of these things I agree are also good to avoid, others I agree are easily misused and overused. Others I disagree are good to abstain from in every situation. But because of the type of reaction I got I wanted to write this article.

My father uses the phrase cost-benefit analysis prolifically, and for good reason. Cost-benefit analysis is one of the most important things that we can do. In simple terms, cost-benefit analysis is basically prioritizing. The name cost-benefit analysis simply helps to clarify exactly what you are doing when you are prioritizing. It is always supposed to be a comparison of all the costs and benefits involved in an expenditure of resources, and weighing them to see which one wins out.

There are of course the obvious costs involved in everything: time, money, energy, skills, thought, stress, etc. And there are the infinite variety of benefits that could be accrued from any of the possible investments out there. But the one main cost that I want to focus on here that applies to the topic at hand is opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost is very interesting: it is the relative expected benefits from one investment in comparison to another. Think about it this way: I have two options of what to do with one hour of my time. Each takes the same amount of effort and so on, but one brings about more benefits. To do the one costs me the benefits of the other, for I cannot do both. So I choose the one that has the more benefits. That is good prioritizing.

There are millions of things that we can do in this world that are very good to do. There are millions of things that we can do in this world that are very bad to do. As Christians, we can be more discerning as to what truly is good or bad to do, thankfully. What is harder to do, is to decide which good things we should be doing. We cannot do them all, as much as we would like to. So we need to test each opportunity that is presented to us, and find out not only whether it is good, but whether or not it is the best use of our resources.

The way that this applies to the subject of abstaining from anything is simply this: ask yourself whether something is worth the time you put into it. That is what I and my family have done with TV and video games, and they did not win out. Internet, Facebook, electronics, and things like that stayed because the benefits that come from them far outweighed the alternative of living without them. Almost anything can be abused and used too much (allocating a superfluous amount of resources into it), but just because it can be overused does not mean that it needs to not be used.

I do not want to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for abstaining from unnecessary involvements: I am simply alerting all of you to think carefully through your priorities. I hope this helps.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

Read the first post here.


6 Responses

  1. Great post, Jay! I didn’t read the post that sparked this one, but my interest is now piqued.

    I don’t really have any thought to add except to agree and stress a point you made-that virtually anything can be “used” for evil. Money is a blessing from God (think Job) but the love of money is evil. Godly teachers are a tremendous blesssing, perhaps even necessary, but an over reliance on them can cause us to neglect personal exploration of God’s Word and the mysteries it holds. Time is a most precious commodity, but it is within the confines and liberty of time that evil is commited. I believe the Bible even uses the phrase (something like this) “all their days were evil” or “all their days were good” to stress the power and potential of time to accomodate either good or evil.

    In everyday life a cost benefit analysis is essential if we aim to serve God with all our heart, soul, and mind!

    Thanks for sharing, “Sir Emeth”! 🙂

  2. Thanks Jay for your article. I do think that many the things we do in our daily activities are not essential to our life. Christ is to be the Lord of our live, and anything that takes His place should be removed, or not touched for a while. I have done this several times in my life to make my focus clear again. Call it a fasting if you will. Sometimes our lives our to crowed with “things” that we lose our focus. God bless and keep writing.

  3. Hey Jay,
    I am in an econ class now and was recently pondering the very subject of this post. The “cost benefit analysis” is on of the main things that we are learning (it’s an intro course) and I was thinking about how it might be useful in terms of Christianity.

    My thoughts went strait to the verses about storing up your treasures in heaven. Surely the benefit of treasures in heave out ways the cost of doing things here on earth. Besides that, how greatly would we benefit others if we were to “sell all that [we] have and give it to the poor.”

    Very interesting that you should post this now.

    In Christ,

    • Adam,

      Economics is certainly a worthy area of study for a Christian, if studied properly. There is a lot of sophistry in it that can really mess you up if you are not careful. I am glad that this post was helpful for you! Thank you for the comment as well!

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