Jan 26, 2017
The question of why we act irrationally is something I’ve been thinking about recently. It seems rational that we would act in our own self-interest, always maximizing our utility (economist speak again). And we certainly wouldn’t do things that actually make our lives harder.
Yet that’s exactly what we do. For example, I know of a family of 6 who left Canada several years back to open a healthcare centre for pregnant women in Rwanda. They left a comfortable life to move to a war-ravaged nation with a much lower standard of living. They had the easy path in front of them, but they chose a harder one. Why would they do that?
How about you? In what ways do you act irrationally—which, remember, we’re defining as acting against your own self-interest? Why do you do that?
Social scientists have been doing a lot of work recently on that question, and one researcher named Dan Ariely (whose TEDTalk is amazing) finds that we act irrationally because of one overriding concern: the quest for meaning. We’ll do all sorts of irrational things when we know that they make a tangible difference, and that factor outweighs all of the other self-interest we carry.
If you’re a Christian, you’re called to a life of irrational behaviour. You’re called to lay aside your motives and your goals and submit them to Jesus and his kingdom. You’re called to give up your own happiness so that you can do something meaningful.
If that’s true, then why is a lot of the recruitment we do in churches focused on making participation easy? Why do we say things like, “Don’t worry, you won’t have to give up much of your time”? Why do we apologize for asking for significant commitment?
So I’m going to try my own experiment here and ask for your help. And I’m not going to undersell it. At Parkland, we believe that God has an amazing kingdom future in store for us, but the only way we’ll see it is through hard work.
We need you to make it happen. We need more people to serve on Sunday mornings in Park Kids. We need people to lead and host Community Groups. We need people to commit to giving up a night a week to participate in Community Groups. We need people to help with setup on Sunday mornings. Are you one of those people?
I can’t promise it’ll always be fun—although I hope it will be—but I can promise that it won’t be in vain, because the cause we work for is the only one with eternal meaning. And that’s worth all the irrationality in the world.