Recently, my husband Will and I moved to New York City. This was more than just a move of possessions and residential address, it was a move to a completely different lifestyle– new city, downsized living space (and selling our current house!), intentional community, and a new job for me were some of the major changes we were taking on.
While we were getting ready to move, I found myself wistfully thinking about staying in Philadelphia. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to move– I was excited about the opportunities in my new job and in New York City. But making changes can be a lot of work; staying in Philadelphia would have been a whole lot easier.
Status Quo Bias
Turns out, I am not alone in my daydreaming and hesitations about lack of change. In fact, you’ve probably been hesitant to make changes, too.
It’s called status quo bias. Basically, we have an emotional tendency to avoid change, because we perceive any change to the current state of things (the status quo) as loss. And as human beings, we really don’t like loss– we usually try to avoid loss at all costs.
This is why making changes– no matter how beneficial they will be for us in the long run– can be so hard. It’s just easier (and less emotionally difficult) to keep everything the same.
The Man in the Bible Who Embodies Status Quo Bias
Just in case we think status quo bias is a new thing, check out the story of a young man (typically called the Rich Young Man or Rich Young Ruler) from the Bible:
Then someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.Matthew 19:16-22
In this story, we see a well-off young man who has the best intentions– he asks Jesus about eternal life. But when the man says he already follows the commandments Jesus mentions, Jesus invites him to sell his possessions, give the money to those in need, and follow Jesus.
Rather than facing such a big change of lifestyle and worldview, the young man gives in to status quo bias. He decides to keep things the same.
The young man literally chooses his wealth and possessions over a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow Jesus while Jesus walked the earth as God in human form. Imagine what his life could have been like if he had taken Jesus up on that amazing invitation!
But we will never know because the man chose the easier path and the status quo.
Breaking the Status Quo Bias For Ourselves
The good news is that we can, with God’s help, intentionally choose to change. We can live a more minimal lifestyle, even though starting that process means breaking our status quo.
Yes, keeping the status quo and living the same way is easier– but, like that Rich Young Man, how much will we miss out on by keeping things the same??
God is calling us to live a simpler life so we can focus on God and what matters most. We aren’t able to live that life God wants for us when we are going about things the same way. We have to break the status quo and make changes. God reminds us:
Do not remember the former things,Isiah 43:18-19
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Spend some time in prayer today. Ask for God’s guidance and help in breaking your own status quo bias– and the courage and strength to make the changes God is calling you to make.
God is inviting us to live differently– let’s listen and make those changes, with God’s help!
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