John Daley ’98

“Zero risk bias” is what causes people to buy up all the toilet paper they can possibly hoard during a pandemic.  In the face of a complex and stressful situation, zero risk bias is a cognitive/behavioral strategy that compels people to focus all their attention on one aspect of “risk” and eliminate it so that they can feel some sense of control over a larger set of circumstances that they ultimately cannot control.  Some people “zero out” the risk of running out to toilet paper by buying more than they could possibly use over a certain period of time. This is why the toilet paper shelves were bare when the pandemic first hit the U.S. in March, and we are starting to see this phenomenon again.

The servant who is given one talent is hoarding toilet paper.  Not literally, of course, but in the figurative sense.  All he focuses on is the risk of losing his master’s money if he tries to make good use of it.  He zeros out that risk by burying the talent in the ground.

If Jesus came again in glory today, do we think he would be proud of us for having a large stockpile of toilet paper?  Quite the opposite!  He would probably wonder why we didn’t donate the toilet paper to a local food bank or charity so that it could be distributed to the less fortunate.  Fear makes us focus on ourselves.  Courage turns us outward.

Today’s parable invites us to consider the gifts that God has given us, like the talents the master entrusts to the servants.  What are our gifts, and how can we invest them in the needs of others?  We may never see the effects of our efforts, but we trust in God to make good returns on what we are willing to give.