22.4.08

Sin as Economics

So many times I find myself thinking of sin economically.  Not necessarily "how much money can I make off doing this sin?" (in fact, I don't have trouble with stealing =]) but more in the sense of sin vs. punishment.  Keep in mind that economics is the study of choices.  

In economics there's these imaginary units called utils that are used to measure satisfaction.  If you purchase something, that means that you think that you will get more utils out of the purchase than either keeping the money or spending it on something else.  

Carry this over to sin.  How often do we think of sin--breaking the law--in this fashion: "Well, how bad is the punishment?  Oh, just that.  That's nothing, so I'll go ahead and commit the crime"?  Take, for example, tax night.  My dad drives up to the post office at ~10:30 PM and finds that if he wants to turn in his taxes on time, he'll have to drive all the way downtown.  There's a few other guys there, and one of them asks just how big the late fine is.  See?  Not, "Well, I guess I'll be driving downtown because I'm a law-abiding citizen and it's the right thing to do," but rather, "Well, the fine isn't that bad, so I'll break the law, pay the fine, and be done with it."

The fundamental problem is a lack of fear of sin.  We often don't realize just how serious sin is, and think of it more in terms of how bad the punishment will be.  If we get more utils from committing the sin (minus the lost utils from the punishment) than we would if we did not sin, that sin suddenly becomes 'ok'.  Whereas we should respect sin for what it is: deserving of eternal damnation.  "The blood of Christ is made cheap" as one commentator put it.  

As well, punishments are not intended primarily as deterrents.  This may sound odd, but think about it for a minute.  If law's punishments were primarily deterrents, the law would become draconian very quickly.  Hang the bank robber.  No one will ever rob a bank again, because they don't get any utils from it.  The problem with that is that the punishment does not fit the crime.  

Punishment fitting the crime is a Biblical concept that goes back a long time.  It attempts to set aright what was done wrong on earth, but does nothing related to what was done wrong in heaven.  That's left to Christ.

Let us not make Christ's blood cheap.

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