Monday, January 18, 2010

Celestial Economics

I’m a finance major. I think in terms of risk/reward and future potential return. A central feature in finance and economics in general is understanding tradeoffs, or what you’re willing to give up now in order to get something of greater value in the future. Finance poses questions such as, “Would you rather invest in a low-risk investment-grade bond with 5% semi-annual coupon payments or high-risk equity securities with potential returns of over 15%?” There’s not necessarily a correct answer (outside of academic scenarios) since those types of questions require introspection and identification of personal long-term goals.
Going through these types of hypothetical situations daily has inspired some reflection on what exactly it is that I’m “investing” in. What are my long-term goals? Where do I want to end up, and how will I get there? And perhaps most importantly, what am I giving up now in hopes of receiving a greater “payoff” in the future?

Asking what the purpose of life is in a Sunday school class will invariably result in answers concerning receiving bodies, being tested, living so that we can return to live with God, etc. In essence, we’re here to become like God; to acquire the same desires, attributes, and knowledge that He has. This purpose was identified in the councils of heaven with two potential methods of implementation that we’re all familiar with.

Careful examination of that account reveals that, in reality, Satan had this goal in mind with his proposed plan: he wanted to become like God. Jesus wanted the same. So what was the difference? Satan sought to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God” and to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14). In other words, he wanted to be greater than God and to forego the necessary development required to truly become like God. Jesus, on the other hand, said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever,” (Moses 4:1-2) yet He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). He recognized that in order to receive the greatest possible blessings available to us (becoming like God), it would take some serious work and sacrifice. Indeed, He understands that better than any of us.

This subtle yet profound disparity between the two plans is present in our lives today. For every hard-earned blessing given to the righteous, Satan offers a twisted, perverted alternative. God’s plan is all about patience, endurance, and humble submission; Satan advocates the path of leisure, ease, self-servitude, and immediate gratification.

Wholesome Reward vs. Counterfeit Alternative

Inner Peace vs. Complacency
Wisdom & Revelation
vs. Knowledge and Information
Meaningful Marital Relations
vs. Sensual Pleasure
Positive Influence for Good
vs. Power and Control
Divine Acceptance and Approval
vs. Justification and Pride
Respect and Admiration
vs. Popularity
Selflessness & Service
vs. Selfishness and Personal Gratification
Potential to Become as God Is
vs. Power over God

Satan promises us things he cannot possibly provide us. Ironically, the pure forms of these promises are to be found in living the gospel.

I’ve decided that Satan is the ultimate marketer – he knows how to sell his product better than any advertising agency could possibly dream of pushing their product on consumers.
For the most part we all have worthy desires and aspirations, but it’s all too appealing to avoid the hard work and consistency that the gospel requires and go with the “get rich quick” scheme offered by Satan. Recent events further indicate that we’re easily enticed by investments that promise astronomical returns while neglecting the impossibility of such incredible results without time and effort.

Returns on investments are easy to calculate in economic terms, but much more difficult to determine when it comes to spiritual matters. Dealing with that uncertainty and lack of concrete metric is crucial in developing faith. The true question becomes, What are you willing to give up in the short-term in order to receive an infinitely greater reward? In other words, who have you chosen to invest in?


  1. mike, you are such an excellent writer. i wish i had your natural capabilities for logic. you are absolutely correct, ps.
    in the words of my bishop, "don't trade diamonds for dirt."

  2. This I understand.

    I'm still a bit lost on the alpha/beta thing, but I like the parallels you've drawn here - works well for that mathematical mind of yours.

  3. Hey, you know what you could do with all that FREE TIME? Write a new blog post--you know, something ridiculous. It's been 5 months. Eet tis time. (< that was my very best Rafiki voice)