Diamonds or Water: Making Choices

By Khoo Tze Wei

Which is essential for life: diamonds or water? The answer is obvious, but if you were on a game show, and had the choice between a diamond or a bottle of water as a prize, you would clearly choose the diamond. Why is this so?

A TED-Ed video on “The Paradox of Value” by Akshita Agarwal explains this apparent paradox :

  1. Value is relative. Each of us assigns different values (economists call this value ‘utility’) on different choices in different situations; whether it be choosing diamonds, water, or any goods or services. Imagine now that you are lost in a desert and I give you the choice between a diamond or water. The value of water to you now would likely be higher than that of a diamond, making you select water instead.
  2. The value you receive for every additional unit of diamond, water, goods or service will eventually diminish. Imagine again that you are lost in the desert, but you now have the option to get water or a diamond every five minutes. You would probably select as much water to last your trip out of the desert, then begin selecting diamonds. Why? The value of the first bottle of water is worth more to you than any diamond (since there’s no point having lots of diamonds, then die of thirst in the desert). However, once you have obtained sufficient water to get out alive, the value of water diminishes, so you start selecting diamonds instead.

Do we make decisions in our spiritual life as we would in the game show illustration? God is water, essential to life eternal; yet we select secular or personal pursuits like diamonds. Though we can probably apply this economic concept of value and choice on any service to God, I am to just focus on our attitude towards public assemblies (bible classes, worship, etc).

Do we purposely miss public assemblies? Are we frequently late (a TERRIBLE Malaysian habit)? Do we sit through the service with our thoughts elsewhere instead of centered on God? Do we select secular or personal interests like work, tuition/classes, Friday nights out with friends or family over public assemblies with the church? Do we sleep late on Saturdays and face much difficulty in dragging ourselves out of bed on Sundays?

We have heard of the illustration of being called to be in the presence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. What would be our attitude towards it? Surely we would consider it a high honour! We would treat it as a solemn occasion and not purposely miss it; we would be immaculately dressed and punctual. So why not the same attitude when it comes to being in the presence of the King of Kings? (Matt 18:20).

May I suggest that it is related to the two points outlined above.

  1. Since value is relative, we have assigned a lower value to public assemblies than our secular and personal pursuits. So we purposely choose work, tuition/classes, etc over coming for service.
  2. Since assemblies happen at least twice a week, every week; we value each additional service less over the course of our Christian lives. So the additional 15 minutes of sleep is valued more than being on time for service. We don’t pay attention during service since “there’s another service next week anyway.”

Where is our reverence and fear for God?

Our actions betray our attitude towards God and our lack of knowledge about Him. Do we not know we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken, requiring that we have grace and serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear? Do we not know that God is a consuming fire, taking vengeance on the disobedient? (Heb. 12:28,29, 2 Thess 1:8, Rom 12:19).

Recorded in Exodus 19, when Israel was at Mt Sinai, Moses was to approach God on the mountain to receive God’s commandments. The Israelites had to prepare for God’s descent onto the mountain: they were sanctified, were not allowed to go up the mountain or touch its base on pain of death, and be pure (Exo. 19:10-15). Indeed, the spectacle of God descending on Mt Sinai was so great that “all the people in the camp trembled” (Exo. 19:16). “So terrifying was the sight that Moses said ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling’” (Heb. 12:18-21). Knowing the terror of the Lord, do we take His presence lightly?

Consider also the parallel between our worship and the Israelites’. In Exodus and Leviticus, we read of the great lengths and details that went into the building and use of the tabernacle. We know that only priests could enter the Holy Place within the tabernacle, while only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year to make an offering for his and the people’s sins. (Heb. 9:1-7). Is not Christ our High Priest who gave Himself once for all as offering for our sins (Heb. 9:11-12, 24-28)? Are we not priests called to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God? (1 Pet 2:4-5, 9). Do we take our priesthood and worship lightly?

Are we valuing assemblies with God and brethren correctly? We are called not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, which was the attitude of some in biblical times. For in our absence, how will we stir one another up to love and good works? How would we exhort one another? (Heb. 10:24,25).

Do we make decisions in our spiritual life as we would in the game show illustration? Do we select diamonds over water?