Pascal’s Wager: a communion meditation

Seventeenth-century Frenchman, Blaise Pascal, was an amazing man. In his short 39 years, he made major contributions to physics and mathematics and was one of the first two inventors of the mechanical calculator. Late in life, he also put forward a thought provoking argument known as Pascal’s Wager.

To quote Wikipedia, the Wager:

…posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).

In short, human beings have much more to gain by believing in God than they stand to lose by not believing.

Examining the argument more fully, it is reasonable to ask what are some of those “infinite gains” to which Pascal refers?  The complete list is extensive–stretching from Genesis to Revelation, but Jesus lays out several compelling examples in the Gospel of John’s detailed account of the Last Supper:

  • He is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:2)
  • He will return to take us to the place he has prepared (John 14:3)
  • He is the way, the truth and the life & no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6)
  • Jesus and God are one (John 14:9-11)
  • Those who believe in him will do the works he has been doing and more (John 14:12)
  • Ask for anything in my name and I will do it (John 14:13)
  • He will send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17 & 26)
  • Those who love Jesus are loved by God, too (John 14:21)
  • If you remain in me, you will bear much fruit (John 15:5)
  • In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Likewise, what are some of the “infinite losses”?  The Biblical descriptions of hell are definitely not pleasant!

  • A blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 13:50)
  • Eternal punishment (Mt 25:46)
  • Punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thess 1:9)

When you weigh the differences between even a handful of examples of the “infinite gains” versus the “infinite losses”, I think any reasonable person would agree that to choose to live life outside of belief in Christ is a huge gamble indeed!

So in this communion time, remember the “infinite gains” Jesus offers not only to the Disciples, but to all who believe in him, and rejoice that you have such extraordinary promises to look forward to.

And if you are unsure in your belief or don’t believe at all, think long and hard about what you are forfeiting.  Pray, examine the scriptures and consult with your pastor.  Bold stock market investments, glitzy gaming venues and new business ventures can certainly rob you of money and pride, but stubborn disbelief in God risks your place in eternity.  Ultimately, don’t place your faith in Christ because you feel obligated by a brilliant dead guy’s argument.  Do it because he offers you hope and rest, grace and mercy, love and forgiveness and a place with him in eternity.

Let us pray…

Father God, thank you for establishing this special reflective time in our weekly worship service to help us remember the infinite gains that await us in heaven.  These are not gains in the earthly sense, but rather precious and eternal treasures laid-up in heaven by you.  As we prepare to receive the emblems this morning, let us never forget the sacrifice you made–sending your only Son to suffer and die on the cross for our sins–so that we could have the opportunity to join you in heaven.  We are forever grateful!  In Jesus’ holy and precious name we pray.  Amen.

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Why do you come to communion?

  1. Routine part of Sunday worship?
    • God hates empty rituals (Jeremiah 6 & 7)
  2. In distress?
    • Elijah fleeing from Jezebel’s wrath (1 Kings 19)
  3. Seeking answers?
    • Jesus invites us to seek and knock (Luke 11)
    • Rich young ruler (Matthew 19)
  4. Struggling with temptation?
    • God will show you a way out when tempted/no trial is unique (1 Cor 10)
  5. Hungry?
    • Jesus feeds the 5000 (Matthew 14)
  6. Sick?
    • Jesus healed the blind, lame and sick (many examples)
  7. Unworthy?
    • Widow’s 2 coins (Mark 12)
    • We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works (Eph 2:10)
  8. Beaten down because of your belief?
    • Blessed for being insulted, persecuted (Matthew 5:11-12)
    • Be happy if you are insulted for being a Christian (1 Peter 4:14)
  9. Curious?
    • Zacchaeus (Luke 19)
  10. Worried?
    • God loves us more than the flowers in the fields (Matthew 6)
  11. Need forgiveness?
    • David prays to God about his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51)
    • A man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14)
  12. Reset from the stresses of life?
    • “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

Jesus doesn’t invite us to communion because we’re Mary Poppins perfect, good-looking, well-connected, filthy rich, obviously important, high-ranking or politically astute.

We come to communion because He asks us to remember His sacrifice, and because of His grace and mercy, He wants us to share in His inheritance.