Are You Making Pascal’s Wager With Your Finances?

by Joe Plemon on December 7, 2009

I'm winning!
Creative Commons License photo credit: NickStarr

 

“Pascal’s Wager” , an argument for belief in God, was formulated by 17th Century French Philosopher and Christian apologist Blaise Pascal.

The Wager Defined

The “Wager” argues that if one lives as an agnostic, he is betting his life on the non-existence of God. If, upon death, he discovers that he was wrong, then his wager has cost him his eternal life. On the other hand, if he chooses to live as one who believes in God, and discovers at death that he was wrong, he has lost nothing because he has still lived an unselfish, honorable and satisfying life. Either way, Pascal argues, the wise wager is to believe in God and live accordingly.

The Wager With Our Finances

I believe the same logic applies to the handling of finances. Our two choices are: 1) living for today or 2) planning for tomorrow. If one chooses to live for today, he is betting his future that he will have no unmet needs later in life. If he is wrong, he will some day be preparing meals from the cookbook, “98 Ways to Eat Alpo and Love It”. On the other hand, if one plans for tomorrow and somehow doesn’t live to enjoy the fruit of his plans, he still wins. Why? Because the very process of being in control of his money has made his life better. This choice produces healthier marriages and more peaceful lives. “Stuffitis” is a non-issue because he has learned that stuff can never make him happy. He avoided the stress of too much debt and the nagging voice in the back of his mind that says, “What will you do if you lose your job or your health? How will you handle an emergency?”

 One definition of character is the ability to delay pleasure for a greater good. Don’t bet your life on living for today. It is a losing wager.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Credit Card Chaser December 8, 2009 at 12:39 am

Interesting approach to this as I have never read an article that even mentioned Pascal’s Wager AND anything related to personal finance. Nice job. – Joel

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Damon December 8, 2009 at 3:22 am

Hey Joe,

Excellent post. I have made this argument before because to me it just makes sense. The funny thing was I didn’t actually know the origin of it, or if I heard it somewhere or just thought of it on my own. The argument I am referring to of course is to believe in God or not to believe in God. Although I was certainly not as eloquent as Pascal, I would always say something along the lines of, well if I believe and I am wrong, then nothing happens, I just die. If you don’t believe and you are wrong, you are in for a whole nother world of hurt 🙂

You certainly can’t argue with the logic.

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Joe Plemon December 8, 2009 at 5:19 pm

@Joel,
Who knows? There might not be anyone else who would think to link Pascal and personal finance. I was listening to RC Sproul explaining Pascal’s wager when the idea hit me.

@Damon,
Yes…it is common sense and logic to believe in God whether Pascal ever made his “wager” or not. My guess is that you just thought of it on your own.

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