What’s your Risk Ratio?

A young man from our community was killed in a motorcycle accident Sunday…one day shy of 20 years old and his whole life, presumably, ahead of him. Presumably.

In a world that is, for the most part, out of our control, it is perhaps unwise to presume too much. I’m sure the seven people killed in the recent Santa Barbara shooting spree presumed they would be sleeping safely in their beds that night. And the seven killed in the Massachusetts plane crash, the six Mt. Rainier climbers, the 239 souls on Malaysian Flight 370, and the more than 120 thousand who die accidentally each year.

rouletter-wheelAre the chances good you’ll be around to see tomorrow? Yes. But the thing is, chance is too unreliable a rationality to depend on when the stakes are high. It’s fine for leisurely gambling, planning an outdoor event, or choosing a checkout line at the grocery store. But in matters of eternal consequence….uh-uh.

There ought to be (and perhaps is) a formula for calculating risk, one that multiplies the potential loss of an action (or inaction) by the percent chance of that loss occurring. So, for instance, the potential loss (we’ll call this PL) of being just a dollar poorer after buying a lottery ticket would be 1, and the percent chance of that loss occurring (we’ll call this CL) is roughly 99.99. The risk ratio (RR) is therefore just under 100.

Now let’s say you’re playing poker and everyone but you and one other sucker is still in, and you call his $10,000 bet. Your PL is 10,000 and your CL is 50 – either he gets the $10,000 or you do. The RR in this situation is much higher at 500,000. Not worth it to me.

But now consider the potential loss of dying suddenly without making your peace with God. I will give this a PL of a trillion, though in light of the eternal consequences I believe that’s a very conservative number. But I have to be able to fit the digits on the page. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the number of deaths from all unintentional injuries at 39.1 per 100,000. This works out to a percent CL of .0391, which when multiplied by a trillion equals 39 billion 100 million. Considerably higher risk than anything else.

Here’s what it looks like in table form:





$1 lottery purchase




$10,000 bet




Accidental death




So you’ll notice that even though the chances of accidental death are relatively small, the potential for loss is so great as to make the risk incredibly enormous.

Now, some of you may object to my estimated PL for accidental death without saving faith because you believe once dead, truly dead, and there is no life anywhere after…ever. Or ever after. But you can’t be certain of this, so the risk for you is just as great.

The young man who died suddenly while going for a Sunday drive on his motorcycle was acquainted with my son and went to the church I attend. Though terribly tragic and I grieve for his parents, his faith in Jesus Christ assured him of a personal Risk Ratio of zero for accidental death. The Bible says, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”1 It’s his parents, sister, other family members and friends who are suffering the real loss. And I as a mother can hardly fathom it. But they are comforted with the knowledge that he is with Jesus, and they will see him again.

What will you lose when you die? What’s your PL for that event? The CL happens to be 100%. You can do the math.

1 Philippians 1:21