Blaise Pascal was a 17th century philosopher who posed the following argument: All people are betting their lives on whether or not God exists. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief or unbelief, the rational person should live as though God exists. This argument has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager.
Put simply, the argument states that if you believe in God, you can’t lose: If he doesn’t exist, you haven’t really lost anything of infinite value, but if he does exist, you have gained eternal life. If we add an underlying presumption to the argument that those who would believe in God have been given faith by God so that they can believe in him, the argument seems to make sense.
If that is the case, then listen to “Paul’s Wager” from 1 Corinthians 15:19-20. The context of this passage is that Paul is addressing some people in Corinth who claimed that there is no resurrection from the dead. In response, Paul presents all of the evidence that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Then he gives the following analysis: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (ESV). Paul takes all of the uncertainty out of Pascal’s Wager. He states that not only does God exist, but he became a man who lived and died for us. Then the impossible happened: He was resurrected from the dead! And because that is a fact proven by many witnesses, it is also proof that those who believe in him will also be raised from the dead. So those who believe in Christ are the most blessed, rather than those most to be pitied.
What then is the logical conclusion for those who believe in Christ and are looking forward to resurrection? Paul gives us the answer in Philippians 3:10. He prays, “…that I may know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (ESV). Paul’s goal in this life was to become like Christ because Christ had freed Paul from the impossible burden of saving himself. Since Paul’s eternal destiny was certain, he wanted all of his energies focused on being like Christ.
We who know Jesus have been brought from death to life and will be resurrected as Jesus was. Remembering this, let us lift our eyes to him and give up the burden of trying to save ourselves by clinging to those things that the world tells us are important. May we, with Paul, pray that we would be like Christ, who gave up everything for others. As God has entrusted us with so many things, may we be faithful stewards who will live our lives for the good of others. We have already gained the infinite—why cling to the finite?
Roy Heggland serves the CLB as Associate for Biblical Stewardship.