Consider the Cost

February 8th 2024

Consider the Cost

But an opportunity came . . .” (Mark 6:21a)

An ‘Economy’ of Words

The term opportunity cost is an expression used in the field of economics that refers to the potential benefits a business, investor, or individual consumer misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.[1] And though the concept of opportunity cost may have its origins in the secular field of economics, it is not exclusive in principle to that particular arena. There is a sense in which the concept of opportunity cost has theological significance as well.

A Fork in the Road

In Alice in Wonderland, written by the 19th century mathematician and author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898), under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, we find the following exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat, whom she encounters as she endeavors to find her way through Wonderland’s many forked roads:

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

Alice: “I don't much care where.”

Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn't much matter which way you go, does it?”

Like the fictional Alice in Carroll’s beloved story, you and I can often find ourselves facing similar decision points, only in real life. As we progress in our daily pilgrimage through this sinful world, we are constantly confronted with spiritual “forks in the road” that present us with opportunities to consider the cost of either obeying God or disobeying him (Luke 6:46). And far too often we choose the latter over the former (Gen 3:1–7).

A Sobering Reminder

The word opportunity appears 16 times in Scripture across 15 verses – all in the New Testament (Matt 26:16; Luke 21:13, 22:6; Acts 25:16; Rom 7:8, 7:11; 1 Cor 3:5, 16:12; 2 Cor 11:12 (twice); Gal 5:13, 6:10; Eph 4:27; Phil 4:10; Col 4:5 and Heb 11:15). It is a word that denotes not merely an occasion by which an individual is faced with a relatively innocuous decision to do or not do something, such as accepting or rejecting a wedding invitation, but one that is ideally fitting for acting at any given moment on a specific desire or intent of the heart for either good or evil.

Such was the case with King Herod and his illegitimate wife Herodias concerning John the Baptist (Mark 6:14–29). In that passage, Mark informs us that Herod “feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man” (v. 20). Herodias, however, had a distinctly different mindset toward John. As Mark writes, she “had a grudge against” John and “wanted to put him to death” (v. 19).

In hindsight, it would be easy for us to look at Herodias and assume that she wanted John the Baptist killed because she feared he might convert Herod to faith in Christ (v. 20b), a transformation which, from her perspective, at least, would likely cause great concern as Herod, as a consequence of his repentance, would likely have returned her to her rightful, and lawful, husband, Philip, who was Herod’s brother (v. 16).

But I want to suggest to you that Herod’s potential conversion to Christ was not the primary reason Herodias wanted John the Baptist murdered. Ultimately, Herodias wanted John murdered because of what Jesus says in John 3:19, that “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

Herodias wanted John murdered because, in considering the opportunity cost of what she might miss out on by allowing John the Baptist to remain in the good graces of King Herod, she chose darkness over light. Another way of saying it is that Herodias preferred to live in unrepentant sin rather than heed the cry of John the Baptist to repent. But such was once the state of your heart and mine, was it not, prior to being mercifully regenerated by the power of the gospel, made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 7; 1 Cor 6:8–11; Eph 2:8)?

A Solemn Warning

It was the French reformer, John Calvin (1509–1564), who lamented, “The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.”[2] Conversely, the 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), declared, “Surely, the heart is a chameleon.”[3]

It was the hardness of her heart that afforded Herodias with an “opportune time” (Luke 4:13) to have John the Baptist murdered. In fact, so intent was she to have John eliminated that she went so far as to use her own daughter to ensure that her devious scheme was brought to fruition (Matt 14:1–8).

Herodias’s story should serve as a solemn warning to each of us to keep a constant, Spirit-guided watch over our heart (Prov 4:23), knowing what it is capable of when left to its own devices (Eccl 7:29), or, as the Puritan, John Owen (1616–1683), said in his book Searching Our Hearts in Difficult Times, knowing what the heart is capable of when “Christ is laid aside as if quite forgotten, as if he was of no use and of no consideration.”[4]

[1],must%20be%20considered%20and%20weighed%20against%20the%20others. [2] John Calvin, A Calvin Treasury: Selections from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by William F. Keesecker (Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York: 1961), 53. [3] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 78:37, [4] John Owen, Searching Our Hearts in Difficult Times (The Banner of Truth Trust: 2019), 16.

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Author: Darrell Harrison