Scarcity, Value, and the Gospel

by Lee Buford on October 3, 2010

Most of us have heard the adage, “perception is reality.” And for the most part it’s true, or at least it may as well be in many cases. Nevertheless, perception is an individual deal, a “beauty in the eye of the beholder” type of deal. Yours is likely to differ from mine in any given situation based on any number of relative variables.

But what about things like value, demand, and cost? These are areas in which perceptions and realities collide on a daily basis, for all of us. In all areas of our lives, including business, careers, finance, family, and faith, we are constantly making decisions based on our perceptions of worth and value.

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. I read most all of what he writes and/or shares for public consumption. And admittedly, in most cases, I agree with him. That said, Seth wrote a recent post that I had to disagree with, at least in terms of his ultimate assumption.

In closing Godin makes the following point: “Scarcity creates value.” I would submit to you that, in fact, scarcity in and of itself does NOT create value. And for that matter, neither does abundance.

For example, I have my game-worn high school football jersey stowed away in my closet. It’s extremely scarce. In fact, there’s only one in existence, and for the right price it can be yours. If scarcity creates value then I’m in a good position for a nice payday. Right? Not.

On the contrary, the gospel is available to all. There are more Bibles in circulation today than at any other time in history, and we have unprecedented access to sermons, books, and other tools that aide in the further spreading of the gospel all over the world. In the sacred, Spirit-inspired text therein we learn that it’s available to anyone who would receive it. Anyone. And anyone is not scarcity.

So what’s the difference? What’s the missing ingredient(s) in the value equation? What makes you decide you whether or not you want my jersey or the gospel? It’s obviously not scarcity or abundance.

From my viewpoint there are two. There could be others as well, relative to each scenario, but for sure there are two that cannot be omitted: COST and DEMAND.

In the first example, my jersey, the scarcity aspect is obvious. It’s a one-of-a-kind item. But nobody’s lining up to buy it because there’s no demand, no matter the cost. Compare my jersey to one worn by Walter Payton or Peyton Manning and you immediately notice the difference is in the demand, regardless of the cost. Scarcity means nothing where my jersey is concerned, but would certainly increase the value in the others because the demand is there.

In the second example, the gospel is available to all, but is still not in as much demand as warranted for something of such value. Why? In this case it’s an issue of cost. Following Jesus is the most rewarding decision any of us could ever make, but the cost is high.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33 – ESV

While a follower of Jesus is not literally expected to give up all he has, he is expected to renounce anything that competes with, or takes the rightful place of, Jesus in the believer’s heart and life. Jesus must be preeminent in all, and that comes at a significant cost to any would-be disciple.

In both examples it’s clear that scarcity does not create value. Value is derived from a combination of factors, and is always relative to individual perceptions and beliefs. And while I certainly understand what Seth was trying to convey in his post, it’s important that we understand how we determine value in our own lives on a daily basis.

While securing my old football jersey for any price would serve you no meaningful purpose, accepting the gracious gift of the gospel, and the opportunity to be a disciple of Jesus, would serve the most meaningful purpose any of us will ever have…no matter the cost.

That is true value!

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