Blaise Pascal is known for positing a simple, logical formula for thinking about the existence of God. It is known as Pascal’s wager. Simply put, the philosopher and mathematician suggests that, if you believe in God, there is a positive outcome if God is while there is no loss if God is not. Yet, if you deny God, there is no gain if you are correct, but there is a tremendous loss if you are wrong. Thus, belief in God can render a positive while disbelief can only render a negative.
While Pascal’s wager will not bring anyone to genuine faith, it does offer a uniquely logical and pragmatic look at the issue of theism vs. atheism. And Pascal is not the only person in history who has used something simple and logical to try to help people be persuaded to surrender to the Lord.
Even in his ministry, the Lord Jesus offers some gloriously logical reasoning for us to consider as we look at what we value and where we stand before God. Consider this logical pair of questions from the Savior.
Matthew 16:26 – For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Jesus gets right to the heart of our rebellion. What is it worth for us to gain at the cost of our souls? What is worth so much in a temporal existence that one would prefer it over eternity?
The question from Jesus is simple, but powerful. Think about your own life. What might you gain for a short period of time that is worth eternal suffering? What might you gain that is worth giving up eternal joy? The logical answer is that there is nothing that you could gain in the here and now that is worth giving up your soul.
We could illustrate this many ways. Were I to tell you that you have a choice between the following two options, which is better? You can have one dollar today, or one billion dollars tomorrow. Which would you take? You can go the single day without a dollar to gain the fortune.
The problem with sinful humanity is that we so often function on the side of the foolish. An unfaithful spouse will sacrifice his or her family for what amounts to a few minutes of physical pleasure. A foolish employee loses his or her career for the sake of a small financial gain in pilfering from the company.
And, of course, the lost person gives up his or her eternal soul for the pleasures of a few years, perhaps a lifetime. But, consider, even a hundred years of pleasure are not worth a thousand of torment. A lifetime of rebellion is not worth the personal loss of eternity apart from God. And, looking from another angle, a lifetime of the greatest hardship that could come upon a person, if followed by an eternity of joy, is no real sacrifice.
Remember the logical question from the Savior as you consider your faith and your decisions. What temporary pleasure and success in this life is worth giving up your forever? What hardship in the here and now is so great that you would rather be freed from it today than have an eternity of joy?
The promise of the Savior is that, if we repent and believe, we will be saved. Our salvation may prevent us from doing things, often painful and self-destructive things, that the world enjoys. And, yes, following the Savior can bring us persecution in this world. But the reward is worth it. In this life, we gain the Spirit of Almighty God. Many gain the joy of Christian fellowship. WE gain the joy of doing that which honors the Lord, finding our purpose in his glory. And we gain an eternity of infinite reward in the presence of our Creator. No earthly gain is worth giving up our eternity.