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,