A Risky Proposition?

Today’s reading:  Mark 5

What is your risk perspective? Say you were offered two options – option 1 is a guaranteed payout of a negotiable amount, but option 2 is a payout based on a coin toss.  Thus, you have a 50/50 chance of winning.  If the coin shows heads you receive $100, but it if shows tails you receive nothing.  The option you select in this situation depends on your risk preference:

  • Risk-averse: If you are risk-averse, you will likely select the guaranteed payment. In fact, if you are highly risk averse, you will take the guaranteed payment regardless of the amount.  From your perspective, some money is a better return than no money.  If your risk-aversion is more moderate, you may consider the coin toss, depending on how the amount of the guaranteed payment compares to the $100 at risk.  The smaller the guaranteed payment, the more likely you are to choose the coin toss.
  • Risk-taker: If you are a risk-taker, you are naturally drawn to situations where you could win or lose.  The idea of making it big is appealing, even though you could end up with nothing.
  • Risk-neutral: If you are risk-neutral, you make your decision mathematically. With 50/50 odds, you choose the coin toss if the guaranteed payment is less than $50.  If it is more than $50, you choose the guaranteed payment.

I found our text in Mark 5 to be an interesting study from the perspective of risk preferences.

Verses 1-20 tell the story of Jesus healing a man by casting out demons. At Jesus’ command, the Legion of demons that had possessed this man for years left the man, entered a herd of pigs, immediately rushed into the sea, and then drowned.  Consider these facts –

  • The demons recognized Jesus as “Son of the Most High God”.
  • The demons acknowledged Jesus’ power over them by asking him not to torment them.
  • The crowd saw Jesus heal a man who had been ailing for years.

In spite of these facts, the crowd still asked Jesus to go away and leave them alone.  This is mind-boggling to me.  Why wouldn’t they want more of him?  The crowd was risk averse – they were afraid Jesus might drown their livestock too; they considered the saving power of Jesus Christ less valuable than their money.

Verses 25-34 tell of a woman who had suffered from a bleeding disorder for more than a decade. This condition, according to Old Testament law, made her ritually unclean.  While she believed Jesus could heal her, she knew she would make Jesus unclean if she touched him.  He could potentially turn against her and she would have nothing.  She, however, was a risk taker and touched him anyway.

Again, what is your risk perspective?  Do you consider Jesus a risky proposition?  Do you believe his power to save, and the abundant life you could have when you follow him, to be better than a life focused on yourself and your personal desires?  It could seem like a risky proposition, when in fact it is not.  Jesus guarantees it.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:35).

In the 1950’s Jim Elliott was a missionary to the Aucas Indian tribe in Ecuador.  This tribe was uncivilized and had a history of being very dangerous.  In fact, no outsider caught on the tribe’s land had ever survived.  The tribe killed them all.  Despite the danger, Jim and four other missionaries felt called to share Jesus with these unreached people.  Jim Elliott lived by this principle, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.  He was a risk taker.  Despite giving his life to the Aucas tribe, who eventually killed him, he gained eternal life.