One of the classes I took while in college was microeconomics.  I know many people who would criticize me for stirring up bad memories of “the class that must not be mentioned” from their college days.  I actually learned a lot from this class, including one economic theory that I find has a spiritual equivalent.

It is the theory of opportunity cost.

One source defines opportunity cost as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen” while Wikipedia states that in opportunity costs “a choice needs to be made between mutually exclusive alternatives.”

Here’s one example: when someone makes a choice to buy a car, they give up another use of that same money for another purpose such as savings, retirement, a vacation, helping the family, and so on. This isn’t just about money. However, it’s also about time and what’s really important to us. When I choose to exercise, for instance, I also give up the opportunity to stay on the couch, eat chips, and watch whatever is on TV. The choices I make—not just my words— declare the things I truly value in life.

God presents us with a spiritual opportunity: to know and experience Him in a life-altering relationship that extends through this life and throughout eternity. Following Jesus Christ is an opportunity that God freely offers to all people, regardless of our human characteristics, background, past, or present situation.

And it is free for us. We can do nothing to earn or achieve it. The spotless, perfect Jesus took our fallen nature, sins, and failures to the cross. His death was the ultimate, complete price to settle the cost of our gross deficit before a perfect, holy God. It cost Jesus EVERYTHING to make this opportunity available to you and me so that we can live in a new, loving relationship with God as newly adopted daughters and sons.

By His rising from the dead, he opened the door for us to rise again as spiritually reborn people through His power.  But we must make a choice to accept Jesus’ offer for us to know Him and experience God the Father through Him. Although this is a free gift from God, I would be less than truthful if I didn’t also say there is an opportunity cost to following Christ. Conversely, there is a tragic, awful opportunity cost when we choose to walk away from God’s offer and try to live life apart from Him.

Here is one instance when Jesus spoke about the cost of following Him:

“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:26-27, The Message) 

Jesus’s point was that nothing or no one can be valued more than Him and that no one or nothing can stand between God and us.  One cost is letting go of our old life that consumed and bound us to things, situations, and even relationships that ultimately destroy our souls and even bodies. Even our personal hopes and dreams, our loved ones, and our futures must be entrusted to Christ.

This can only happen when we come to know—in the depth of our being—that God’s plans for us and His kingdom are infinity better than anything we are asked to forgo. It is God’s opportunity cost.

There have been times when God has sent me to serve Him apart from my family. There have also been times when I have been asked to let go of a beloved family member whom He has called to serve somewhere else. Finally, there have been times when God has allowed us to serve Him together. In all these times, however, I have learned that God’s “opportunity costs” are minuscule compared to the incredible benefits He has bestowed on me.

I pray that you will understand that God’s love and plans for you far outweigh any personal cost he asks of you as you follow Him. Psalm 103, one of my personal favorites, lists some of the benefits of God’s opportunity for us.  As you consider the opportunity cost of following Jesus, let these words from Psalm 103 (The Message) rest in your mind and soul:

“O my soul, bless God,

From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!

O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing! 

He forgives your sins—every one.

He heals your diseases—every one.

He redeems you from hell—saves your life!

He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.

He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.

He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

God makes everything come out right;

he puts victims back on their feet.”

God bless you.