(Spiritually) Sunk

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the things we have are worth what we paid for them.

They’re not. They’re worth what they can do for us.

I love how Seth Godin puts it:

When making a choice between two options, only consider what’s going to happen in the future, not which investments you’ve made in the past. The past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future.

You have two pieces of land. One you bought for $1,000,000, one for $10,000. On which one should you develop a gas station?

I know. The one that’s right next to the huge subdivision being put up, not the one next to the condemned shopping center. Does it matter how much the land cost to buy? No. Not at all.

If the land next to the condemned shopping center was the one that cost you a million dollars, and you insisted on building the gas station there because you’d already invested a million dollars into it, you’d be making a terrible decision. The land isn’t valuable because of what it cost you; the land is valuable because of what it can do—which means your million-dollar land is worthless for the purpose of building a gas station.

It’s called the “sunk cost fallacy.” We tell ourselves that because we’ve already heavily invested in something, we’re bound to stick with it instead of cutting our losses and trying a better alternative.

But of course, a sunk cost can be more than just a financial matter. We invest time and effort as well—and these investments are just as susceptible to the sunk cost fallacy.

* * *

Passover is a week away from tonight. It’s an annual benchmark—one that offers us a unique opportunity to reflect on investments of a different kind.

Nearly every choice we make is a spiritual investment that either moves us closer to the Kingdom or farther from it. Passover invites us to ask ourselves, “Are there investments in my life I need to think about walking away from?”

“I spent so long in pursuit of this” is not relevant.

“I put so much effort into obtaining this” is not relevant.

These are sunk costs. What it cost you to get where you are right now has no bearing on whether it’s worth being where you are right now. The only criteria that matters when evaluating spiritual investments is, “Does having this in my life bring me closer to God—or does it push me farther away?”

Blessings are not excluded from this evaluation. The eye is a blessing from God (Proverbs 20:12), and yet, “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:9).

Closer? Or farther?

We get past spiritual sunk costs by letting go. Letting go of the idea that we need to stick with bad decisions, letting go of the idea that our mistakes have to define us, letting go of “every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,” and choosing instead to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

The amount of effort you’ve put into a bad decision up till now isn’t part of the equation. I don’t think Seth Godin had a spiritual slant in mind when he wrote that little blog, but he’s right. Thanks to the sacrifice that Passover reminds us of, “The past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future.”

The decisions that brought you here, to this moment, are behind you. You are where you are. Your goal is the Kingdom.

What spiritual investment should you make next?

Until next time,

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