“Conspicuous Conservation”

Two young economists, Steve and Allison Sexton (twins), argue that the popularity of the Toyota Prius is found in “conspicuous conservation.”  Steve Sexton explains, “The Honda Civic hybrid looks like a regular Honda Civic.  The Ford Escape hybrid looks like a Ford Escape.  And so, our hypothesis is that if the Prius looked like a Toyota Camry or Toyota Corolla, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is.  And so what we set out to do in this paper is to test that empirically” (Levitt and Dubner, When to Rob a Bank, p. 185).  What did they conclude?  Stephen Dubner writes, “The question they really wanted to answer was this: How much value do people who lean green place on being seen leaning green?  The Sextons found that the Prius’s ‘green halo’ was quite valuable to its owners – and, the greener the neighborhood, the more valuable the Prius is” (ibid).  Collin Campbell writes, “When you drive a Prius, the Sextons argue, there’s a ‘green halo’ around you.  You make new friends, you get new business opportunities.  In an especially ‘green’ place like Boulder, Colorado, the effect could be worth as much as $7,000” (freakonomics.com/2011/04/21/conspicuous-conservation-and-the-prius-effect/).

Do not misunderstand me.  I am not defending their theory.  I have not seen the data. It is interesting an interesting theory. My aim in mentioning the theory is to get us to consider motives, why we do what we do. I am using it as a lead into a Biblical point.

Let us ask: Why we do what we do as Christians?  Would we do the same things if no one saw what we did?  Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.  Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:1-2); “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites.  For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5); “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:16).

God wants genuine devotion. He does not want devotion which is motivated by receiving glory from men. He certainly, does not want pretended devotion, to be seen by men as devoted to God.

I am afraid that many are pretending to be Christians.  Let us truly be Christians.  Let us live the Christian life whether anyone is watching or not.  It should not be about getting credit from men, but serving God. “Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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