Archives For Economics

Sin Is Expensive

Mark Beuving —  October 25, 2012 — 1 Comment

A couple days ago, I blogged about Craigslist’s faulty theological foundation. Basically, Craig Newmark built Craigslist on the belief that people are basically good, so if you give them a platform for interaction, everything will work out. But because the Bible is correct in saying that people have a sin nature, things are bound to go wrong on Craigslist, even as they go wrong in every area of life.

Hamburglar

The McDonald’s Hamburglar

In this post, I’d like to briefly explore the economic impact of sin. In other words, sin is expensive. Certainly sin tears apart our relationships, our psychological health, and most significantly, our relationship with God. But sin also costs money.

In the case of Craigslist, the site has been used as a marketplace for prostitution, which has forced Newmark to make preventative changes to the site. Scammers have also been using the site to swindle sellers out of their goods, which means that Newmark’s team has had to add security measures. All of this means increased expenses.

In his excellent book Truth and Transformation, Vishal Mangalwadi talks about visiting a dairy in the Netherlands. When he walked into the dairy to buy a glass of milk, he found no attendants—there was only a cashbox in which to leave his money and make change if necessary. He observed that this is the most cost-efficient way for the dairy to sell its milk, but once enough people took their milk without paying (or even stole the money from the cashbox), the dairy would be forced to hire an attendant. This means money out of the dairy owner’s pocket, which means higher cost of production, which means higher prices for the costumers, and on and on it goes.

Vishal Mangalwadi

Vishal Mangalwadi

Mangalwadi also describes an experience he had while traveling through eastern Europe by train. He couldn’t figure out the automated ticket dispenser, so he asked a couple of young ladies how it worked. “We don’t know,” they told him. “But don’t worry about it. Just hop over the turnstiles. We’ve been travelling like this for weeks and no one has checked our tickets.”

Do you see where this is going? Once enough people hop the turnstiles and begin travelling for free, the railroads will be forced to hire clerks to check tickets on the trains, which increases their expenses, which in turn ups the price of a train ticket.

Sin is expensive.

The point is, not only was Craigslist built on the faulty premise that people are basically good, but the reality that people have a propensity toward sin is costly in every way. Think of how much money companies would save if they didn’t have to hire security guards. Or how much cheaper our goods would be if stores didn’t have to build compensation for a predicted amount of theft into their prices.

Sin is bad, and we all end up paying for it.

Yesterday I said that everything in this world is important because of the kingdom of God. If God’s righteous reign is to spread into every aspect of this world, then we need to take everything seriously. This is God’s world, and we should love every inch of it and long to see it redeemed (Rom. 8:19–25).

One of the major reasons we have trouble thinking highly of this world is the reality of sin. Our world is soaked in sin. Sin is responsible for everything from thistles to headaches to rude customers to cancer to death itself. So when we look at the world, we see sin. It’s unavoidable.

So let’s burn the place to the ground! Right? When the milk in my fridge gets corrupted, I plug my nose and pour it down the drain. There’s nothing lovely about spoiled milk.

But our world is different. Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew use a helpful analogy here. They explain that sin is like a stain. It’s messy, it taints what it touches, but it’s different than the fabric itself. There is still good fabric underneath the stain. If I love my favorite shirt enough, I don’t throw it out with my every coffee spill.

Here’s where I’ll carry the analogy a bit too far and into some cheesy territory. I do everything I can to clean my shirt. Very often, I can get the stain out. If that doesn’t work, I can always take it to the cleaners. And lucky for us (brace yourself for the cheesiness), we know the ultimate Cleaner who at the end of all things will bring us back our once-stained world, sparkling clean, renewed, reinvigorated, and—because our Cleaner is also the Master Tailor—made even better than before.

Cheesiness aside, I hope the point is coming across. This exercise would be so helpful for all of us: read Genesis 1 and 2, then skip ahead to Revelation 21 and 22. These are the bookends of Scripture and the parallels are stunning.

So what do we do? We engage every aspect of our world with Christian fury. We look to politics, economics, education, childcare, and entertainment with a passion to see God’s will done in each of these spheres. Rather than turning away in disgust because these activities are too corrupt, we ask ourselves what it would mean for each of these spheres to come under the lordship of Christ and be transformed by his grace.

Of course, this task is difficult. Impossible even. But if God’s plan of redemption is indeed as wide as creation itself, then we will have to represent him across the board. We can’t be defeatist and give up simply because we can’t do the whole job by ourselves. If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing even if we’re bound to fail. We labor to see God’s will done in and around us, and we trust him for the results.

Our world is stained by sin, but it’s worth fighting for. Let’s attack the stain but rescue the fabric.