I like reading books about economics. One of the things that I’ve always found fascinating is the sunk cost fallacy, ‘the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.’1
We all know the kind of thing: sitting through a terrible film because you’ve paid for the ticket; pursuing a career that you hate because of the time and money invested in education and training; spending more money on repairing an old car because it’s already cost you a lot rather than cutting your losses and getting rid of it.
I think the same kind of psychology can operate when we’ve rebelled against God, especially in pursuing sinful sexual relationships. Sometimes sin has cost us an awful lot and so we hold out for the perceived benefits rather than cutting our losses. When sexual sin has cost us our marriage, family, friends, or job it’s easy to want to hang onto the thing that we’ve given all those up for, even if it’s not satisfying us or delivering what it promised.
Life lived in disobedience to God can look so attractive from the outside. It’s like a holiday brochure that shows you all the glorious beaches in the best weather, completely unspoiled countryside, delicious food, Eden-like nature. And when you get there, you realise it’s full of annoying tourists and there’s litter on the beach and there are feral dogs and it’s expensive. Some things about it might still be great, but it’s definitely not what you were expecting. It can be hard to admit that you were taken in.
It can be like that when we run away from God too. Sometimes it’s easier just to carry on and pretend you’re enjoying yourself rather than to hold your hands up, admit that God’s right, and come running back to him. It’s cost so much to pursue this life that it’s hard to go back, even though going back to Jesus would be by far the most beneficial thing. That’s the sunk cost fallacy.
I’ve had friends who have got involved in a same-sex relationship which has had devastating consequences. I have experienced that in my own life too. Many years ago, I got involved in a lesbian relationship that cost me my job and some friendships. I thought that having everything I wanted would make me happy and it took me a long time to admit that being in a sexual relationship with a woman wasn’t worth throwing away intimacy with God, rich Christian community, and the promise of an eternity with my loving Heavenly Father.
There can be a real pride in doggedly continuing to sin. We try to save face by trying to convince ourselves that our way’s best, even when we know it’s not. We don’t want to admit what idiots we all are sometimes. We can even want to go back to God, but mistakenly think there’s nothing to go back to because we’ve burnt all our bridges. The good news is that Jesus says to us, ‘Come home my love, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad it is. There is a welcome here for you. Nobody is going to be angry – that was dealt with at the cross. All I want is to have you home where you belong.’
If that’s you, will you listen to his voice today? It’s never too late to come back home to Jesus and it will always be worth it.
Adapted from Sin and the Sunk Cost Fallacy at annewitton.uk
- Definition from Google English Dictionary.