Not A Fully Invested Disciple? The Sunk Cost Fallacy

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A logical fallacy is when you make an argument based on reasoning that’s just plain wrong.

In a previous article, I argued Jesus taught that logical fallacies are the native language of Satan and the fallen world because they are lies at their core. Therefore, one of the first places we can begin to imitate and obey Jesus as his disciple is to identify when we employ logical fallacies and to stop doing so.

It is important that disciples of Jesus think clearly.

Here is another fallacy. It is a person’s tendency to follow through on an endeavor if they have already invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current cost outweighs the benefits.

Jesus taught:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.'” (Luke 14:28–30)

As mentioned earlier, because we don’t want to feel like we have wasted or lost time, effort, or money in what we invested so far, we continue to invest more, even though we know the end result is not worth further investment. Often, we convince ourselves that something really good, even miraculous will happen that will make the entire investment worthwhile in the end. This is called a sunk cost fallacy.

Luke 9 gives some examples of the sunk cost fallacy in regard to discipleship:

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” (Luke 9:57–58).

This man may have been unwilling to lose the investment he had in a home in order to follow Jesus.

“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:59–60)

This man was apparently unwilling to lose what he had invested in his relationship with his father and his family—or his standing in society—in order to follow Jesus.

“Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:61–62)

This man was also unwilling to abandon the time and energy he had invested in relationships in order to follow Jesus. But Jesus said this man would have to abandon that investment in order to invest fully in the kingdom of God.

How do we do this today?

We often feel like we must continue to invest time, energy, and money into churches, church buildings, church programs, church relationships, worship styles, Bible translations, etc., even though they have proven to no longer be effective at making disciples of Jesus in our current culture and context.

We feel like we must continue to invest time, energy, and money into costly hobbies because we have invested so much in them, even though they are keeping us from fully investing in the kingdom of God.

That is not to say we can’t have productive or stress-reducing hobbies, but we must recognize when they keep us from fully investing in the kingdom of God.

We feel like we must continue to invest in friendships that we have invested time and energy into, even though the relationships keep us from fully investing in the kingdom of God. Again, Jesus and the Scriptures call us to invest sacrificially in relationships and to bear patiently with others, but a point comes where our time and energy would be better spent on more fruitful relationships.

We feel like we must continue to invest time, energy, and money into social and political causes that we have previously invested in even though they keep us from investing completely in the kingdom of God.

We often convince ourselves that our investments in these causes will miraculously pay off, even though no clear indication exists that they will.

Everything is this article is background to this one important point. Jesus clearly taught that there are times when we will have to abandon things in which we have previously invested in order to invest fully in the kingdom of God:

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

What have your invested in that is actually a sunken cost that is holding your back from a full investment in the kingdom of God.

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