What Might Be Lost

Deuteronomy 11:13-17 (NRSV)

If you will only heed his every commandment that I am commanding you today—loving the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul—then he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil; and he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you will eat your fill. Take care, or you will be seduced into turning away, serving other gods and worshiping them, for then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain and the land will yield no fruit; then you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you.


By Chuck Griffin

When I was in college, I learned an important concept in economics class: “opportunity cost.”

Essentially, when we make decisions, we need to account for more than just the gain we believe we will experience by going in a particular direction. We also need to assess what we lose by not making an alternate choice.

As Forbes magazine once wrote, “It’s a core concept for both investing and life in general.”

It’s easy to analyze opportunity costs with hindsight. For example, a lot of us may have spent $10,000 or so on a nice little car or truck in 1997. We probably enjoyed driving our little cars and trucks.

We had another option, however—we could have instead bought $10,000 worth of Amazon stock in May of that year, when it was first publicly offered. In May of 2020, according to Investopedia, that stock would have been worth $12 million.

The problem, of course, is that none of us has clear information about the future, so it’s hard to guess what our opportunity cost for a particular decision is going to be. Don’t ask me for a loan. I bought the little car.

As we see in our Deuteronomy text, God did the Israelites a real favor. He laid out what would happen if they chose to love the Lord with all their hearts and souls, and what would happen if they chose to turn away from God and sin.

One choice promised a sort of paradise on earth. The other offered a miserable existence and widespread death. The opportunity cost of each choice was made clear. But even with all that clarity, they chose poorly.

God is gracious, of course. He presents the lesson in new ways. Now he presents it to us through Jesus Christ. Choosing to reconcile with God through Jesus actually offers us peace and joy in this life, and ultimately eternal life in the presence of God!

Sin often is attractive in the short-term, offering what we think we cannot live without. To combat sin, it helps to measure the opportunity cost of straying from God’s love and guidance. Ongoing joy and eternal life are a lot to lose.

Lord, may your Holy Spirit grant us a fuller and more complete picture of where our decisions lead us. Amen.

The Precious Present

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

James 4:13-16

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.


The human mind is a remarkable time traveler. Our bodies are always in the present, but our minds easily jump into the future or the past. In fact, it is very difficult to keep our minds perfectly in the present.

That’s not necessarily a problem. Our minds just work that way. Remembrances of the past and visions of the future help us make critical decisions.

If you’ve read all of James’ letter, though, you know that he has a theme regarding how our thoughts and words can reveal our failure to keep God central in our lives. Today’s Scripture reading focuses on the flippant ways we sometimes talk about the future.

Again, a little context helps. James wrote his letter at a time when the rich were very busy planning to get richer while the poor were getting poorer. 

Much like Jesus, James was not being critical of wealth per se. Both warned, however, of the incredible distraction the pursuit of wealth can become when there’s kingdom work to be done.

James took particular note of the merchants of his day, who ran from city to city planning ventures years in advance, with no acknowledgment of their own mortality or need to align with God. Along these same lines, Jesus had told a parable found in Luke 12:13-21, a story aimed more at wealthy, overly comfortable landowners.

There’s a simple, very true cliché that Jesus or James could have used: “You can’t take it with you.” And if you can’t take it with you, why would anyone who believes in God pursue wealth without considering God? As one Christian commentary notes, such a short-sighted attitude is the “sin of arrogant presumption.”

James helps us maintain the right attitude as we plan for the future by giving us a simple phrase to keep in mind: If the Lord wants, followed by whatever we need to say about the future. In the South, we might precede such statements with, “Lord willin’.”

While we naturally talk about the future, the spiritually attuned are deliberate about focusing on the precious present, the holy now. We can go to Scripture now to seek God’s truth. We can pray now, staying with God until we hear from God.

Having dwelled with God in the moment, we then are better equipped to look to the future, letting God’s greater plan shape any visions we may have.

Lord, may we walk with you moment by moment, staying on the path that leads us to eternity with you. Amen.


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Small Groups, Day 5

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 28:20b (NLT): “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Having spent most of this week exploring what makes small groups healthy and effective for the Kingdom of God, I thought I would offer a few personal observations this Saturday. Ah, let’s just go ahead and say it—these are Chuck’s opinions, whatever they are worth.

I am convinced that small groups are critical to Christianity in America. Without another “Great Awakening,” we will continue to see churches shrink and die as our older members pass away. The remaining Christians will be a small-but-serious bunch, many of them grouped in house churches no larger than what I’ve been describing these past few days.

If there is another American Great Awakening—an event we should pray for and work toward—it likely will be built around vibrant small groups. The small group structure has historically been a part of explosive growth in the church, and there’s no reason to believe that important structural feature will go away.

So, one way or another, small groups will be the defining characteristic of the American church future, whether Christianity proves to be an integral part of our culture or a remnant of what used to be.

I don’t think for a minute that Christianity will depart from this earth. Belief in Christ is spreading like wildfire in other parts of the world. I would, however, like to think that my own culture will continue to participate in the kingdom in a lively way, rather than becoming a secularized dead zone.

It also would be sad if the particular strain of Christianity known as Methodism continues in its widespread failure to embrace the system of small groups that once made the movement so effective.

So, I leave you with an invitation. If you’re called to be in a small group, or perhaps even lead one, let me know. We will make that happen, whether you are a part of the local church I serve or somewhere else.

Lord, may a new fire be ignited in your American church, and please don’t forget your Methodist children as it happens. Amen.