How Many Trillions Does Sin Cost?

Yes, we all know that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). I’m talking about the social, economic, and political costs. I’m thinking about this today because of a study recently published that assigns a dollar cost to five different types of crime. For example, according to the researchers’ calculations, each murder costs society $17.25 million. Other crimes such as rape have a price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The researchers’ goal was to determine whether prevention and rehabilitation programs save society money in the long run. I would like to see a study that crunches the numbers on everything the Bible identifies as sin and tells us what the social cost is. Think about the money we spend to deal with sin and its effects (or to enable sin). The entire military budget, for starters. Then there are social expenditures for police and other security measures (locks on doors, bars on windows, the entire system of jails and prisons, etc.).

A huge percentage of the government regulations in America, the cost of which is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, is ostensibly in place to prevent or punish unethical behavior. What about all the money businesses and individuals spend to protect themselves from fraud and other forms of dishonest behavior? How much would there be left for our courts and lawyers to do absent sin?

How much money does the world spend trying to deal with sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies because people do not obey Biblical instructions concerning sexual behavior? How much more expensive is life for divorced couples who now have to maintain two separate households and their associated costs?

I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface here. I’m sure by the time we were to list all the costs of sin, we’d have many trillions of dollars spent annually. The world economy is estimated at $50-$60 trillion, I think, so this would be a hefty percentage of that. Feel free to add more costs of sin in the comment section.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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4 Responses to How Many Trillions Does Sin Cost?

  1. Vic McCracken says:

    Interesting question, Jason. Have you read Freakanomics or Steven Levitt’s 2001 Quarterly Journal of Economics article on the cost-cutting effects of abortion? It’s controversial research from a University of Chicago economist that suggests some positive correlation between reduced crime rates and increased access to abortion.

  2. Preston says:

    Technically, every dime we spend is at least indirectly the result of sin. The result of leaving the garden is that we can no longer work for the direct reward of eating the fruit of the trees we tend. Thus, even when we work and earn money and spend it in ways that are morally permissible, we are still separated in a sense from the real results of our labors. Possibly, the thorns and thistles of this separation are the real cost in sin, and every dollar spent, which helps to cloud the real result of work, could at least serve as a reminder of sin, although in itself, it is no sin.

  3. Dr. J says:

    Vic, I’ve seen summaries of Levitt’s research. On the face of it, it’s a plausible argument, although by itself it obviously doesn’t demonstrate the desirability of legal abortion, even from a purely utilitarian standpoint, so I don’t understand why there is so much controversy over it.

    Preston, I’m not entirely sure you’re correct. Supposing we had never left the garden, might there not still have developed some division of labor and exchange?

  4. Kim Geiger says:

    I believe the “research” showing abortion reduces crime is seriously flawed. The huge issue that is it ignores is the undermining of the value of the individual in the minds of people. This, I would contend, dramatically increases crime.

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