Hidden Costs

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the price we pay for things in our life and how there are many “hidden” costs. When we go to the store, we are constantly making judgments with regard to prices. We will see one item and decide the price is too high. When looking at another, we may make a judgment that the item is “cheap” because the price is very low.  Prices dominate our lives – they cause us to make value judgments with regards to our resources.

Everything in life has a price. The challenge is to assess the proper price to things so that we can make the correct decision. Let me share a humorous story:

Last week, we discovered that a bank transaction we thought we made in June 2011 had not actually gone through. It was for the taxes on the vehicle provided by our religious organization. We discovered this error when we received a notice from the Poliisi, which stated that we could not drive the car until it was resolved. Immediately, we began the process of discovering what was required to rectify this issue. The short answer was that we simply needed to pay the taxes, accompanied by a small late fee. That was a small price to pay for a seven month error, right?

Now, let’s look at the actual price we had to pay. The day after a Finnish friend explained the notice and the actions we needed to take, the temp was -26°C (-15°F). As I could not drive the car, I had to walk about 1 km (>1/2 mile) to the Poliisi station to discover the proper procedures that needed following. Upon arrival, I discovered the station was closed and would not reopen until the following Monday. If I wanted to get the issue resolved “quickly,” I would have to go to a neighboring city. This required walking to the train station, purchasing tickets (5€), and making the 20-minute train ride to Järvenpää, where the main Poliisi station for the area is located. The walk from the train to the Poliisi was about 1km. While there, I find that they cannot resolve this issue; rather, I must call the Transportation department and pay the taxes. Then afterwards, I would need to have the vehicle inspected before I could legally drive it. I returned home, made the phone call to TraFI, and we made the payment. Next, I located an inspection station nearby that could perform the inspection that day.

Now to my point: the surface price for our error was only about 35€ (late fee + train ticket). That is a small price to pay for the luxury of driving a car when the temperature is well below freezing. However, as my story described, there were many hidden costs. I spent several hours walking in the very cold weather. The hidden costs were the time and the discomfort. I lost a ½-day that would have been more profitable had I studied Finnish (the original plan).  I expended both emotional and physical energy that I could have directed into more pleasurable – or necessary – activities.

There are always hidden costs in everything we do. Admittedly, many of these costs are not foreseeable. I had no way of knowing that this issue would occur on a day when the temperature was so low. However, many are avoidable.

As I look back on my life, I discover that many times, I have ignored the foreseeable. For example, I love desserts. I know that desserts, when eaten regularly, will cause weight gain. Weight gain causes one’s heart to need to work harder and results in high blood pressure. Many times, I have chosen to eat a very sweet dessert by commenting, “One piece won’t be that bad” while ignoring the fact that I have said that to myself several times recently. There result was “unexpected” weight gain and “unforeseen” high blood pressure. Why would one do this? My mind goes to two scriptures:

Luke 14:28-30 (KJV)
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Hebrews 11:25 (KJV)
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Now, I’m not trying to equate eating dessert with sin (although gluttony is sin). What I am trying to demonstrate is that many times, especially in the area of sin and conscious, we ignore the “hidden” costs. We want the seasonal pleasure in spite of the outcome.

I have heard the statement many times, “No one backslides overnight,” or “No one becomes a drunk over night.” You could easily insert many other examples into those statements.

As I study my past, I can see obvious decision points where I chose to do the wrong thing. I never sinned by accident. The converse is true also. There are significant decision points where I chose to do the right thing. I am not a good father, wife, friend, etc. by accident. All of these things require effort. I plan to be a good father. I plan to be a good husband. Without effort, these things will not happen.

There are many hidden costs that go into the price of achievement. Are you willing to pay the price when confronted by them? Will you invest the extra study to needed to excel, or is mediocrity acceptable to you?

We must daily awaken with the knowledge that to which we are called requires willingness to pay the hidden price. It is unavoidable. Why? Failure also has its share of hidden costs. We will pay a price…why not choose excellence?

One more scripture:

Joshua 24:15 (KJV)
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 

I will serve the Lord. I will pay the price.

What about you?


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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God, Missions, Religion, Spirituality

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