But what if the opportunity cost—the thing you might be giving up—was your livelihood or even the safety of your family? I wonder if this is the sort of thing that might have gone through the Israelites' heads as they settled in the Promised Land? Let me explain. You see, the Law prescribed that all Jewish men were to go to the Tabernacle, (and later the Temple) three times per year. (Exodus 34:23) Now, if you were a Jewish head-of-household, this commandment might have given you pause. They lived in a hostile territory. There were neighboring peoples who might be interested in homes and fields which had been left unprotected. Especially since Jewish males wouldn't be picking three random times per year—their visits coincided with specific feasts and festivals during Israel's calendar. That meant that all of the men from entire communities would be leaving town for a while, leaving their crops, homes, wives, and children dangerously exposed! And it wouldn't take long for bandits and raiders to figure out that these times were the same every year. So a Jewish male might have been worried that this was a very dangerous trade-off; a very risky opportunity cost. "What if I leave for a week to go worship, and when I return, my family has been kidnapped and my crops and livestock have all been stolen? What if my land has been settled by enemies? What will I do then??"
That's why I love the following verse: Exodus 34:24. In it, God absolutely promises that He will protect them as they follow His commandments. God says "...no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God." You see, God has thought of everything! He isn't expecting husbands and fathers and shepherds and farmers to make extremely hard decisions; to weigh the opportunity cost of following God's commands. Instead, He promises that if they will obey Him in faith, that He will protect them for it; they won't be penalized for following His commands. And I think there may be something here for us today! I don't think we need to be fearful that obeying God might penalize us. True, we are called to deny ourselves, (Luke 9:23-24), but that's not the same as risking complete loss; in fact Jesus says that "whoever loses his life for me will save it." We should never worry about weighing the opportunity cost of following God's commands. Obedience to God will be honored by God.
- Pastor Paul