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Choice versus Convenience

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Choice: An act of selecting or making an intellectual decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
  • Convenience: The state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty.


Our culture has been programmed to believe that convenience is an expediency that is nearly impossible to live without.

Yes, eating fast food every day is expedient, but thirty years of doing that, well, you may not have thirty years.  And that $7 a day twice a day drive-thru coffee adds up to a down payment on a house in short order.

Yes, the movies and internet quick-read articles are faster than consuming an entire book, but what valuable discretionary content was edited out of the hours you saved (and by whom)?

Yes, cheaper feels better now, but it will soon have to be replaced.

Types of Convenience

As Seth Godin writes, convenience comes in many forms

Social convenience: it’s easier to sit through a boring cocktail party or a meeting than to tell someone you don’t want to come.

Physical convenience: handy things are much more likely to be chosen than those that require us to move somewhere to get them.

Intellectual convenience: change makes us uncomfortable.  Sunk costs are hard to ignore.  Possibility comes with agency, and agency comes with risk.

Financial convenience: if it’s cheaper in the short run, we’re more likely to choose it, even if it costs satisfaction, opportunity, or cash in the long run.

Cultural convenience: A combination of all of these – because culture likes the status quo and reminds of this regularly.

Choice – And How To Pick

The real problem, however, is not recognizing, realizing, acknowledging, or understanding the inevitable high price of each convenience.  Instead, it is the cumulative effect of a lifetime of choosing convenience without ever looking at the higher cost.

Picking between choice and convenience is nearly always difficult.  There are just too many variables to quantify.  Fortunately, there are a few guidelines that can help.

Motivations – We need to examine our motivations for each decision constantly.  This is particularly important in material purchases and will help prevent accumulating things you don’t need or ever use.

Are our motivations emotional or based on time constraints (panic purchases)?  Thinking ahead is always a good idea.

Values – does this decision represent my values?  In buying decisions, do I need really expensive stuff that holds a strong value, or can I get by with cheap stuff?  In making donations, does this organization have to my personal values – and if you don’t know, don’t donate.  Do I spend my time reading good books or watching shallow movies?

Other Options – can you consider other options for the decisions?  What are the alternatives for investing money, or is it just convenient to keep putting it in the same place?

Is Choice Really Inconvenient – finally, is what we think of as or choice actually that inconvenient, or is it that we have just not thought of it?  For example, many swear that making healthy food is not that much more difficult than buying pre-packaged food to heat and eat.  But you never know until you try it.

The Bible

Remember that most convenience items are good and have become a convenience for a reason.

I’d be hard-pressed to get along without a convenience store where I could buy gas, lunch, and maybe the other necessities I’d forgotten during the day.  Otherwise, I’d have to go from the gas station to the grocery store and then to the pharmacy.  TV remotes and audiobooks are two other conveniences I enjoy.

The Bible, however, focuses on what is good for the people of God and what is sinful as a way to distinguish the choices we need to make.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16 says

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.

As Bible-believing Christians, we know that we have been given two gifts; the gift of choice and the give of God’s message telling us how to choose.

It is up to us to make the right choice.  Psalm 25:12 says,

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs are constantly given opportunities to make choices.  Do you choose convenience or make rational, long-term selections?

The ability to pick between the two is given to us by God, and all we need to do is rely on Him to help.