An Evangelical Church in the Heart of Thatcham

The “Nudge unit”

The picture on the front was that of an elephant pushing the baby along with its trunk, the title:  “Nudge” by Prof Richard H Thaler who has just now been awarded a Nobel prize.

The previous Prime Minister took up some of his ideas in the creation of an internal department which gained the affectionate title of: the “Nudge Unit”. One of the government’s most effective “nudges” was what you got sent if you failed to pay your car tax. A big heading shouted: “Pay your tax or lose your Ford Fiesta” (or whatever car was yours) accompanied by a photograph of the untaxed vehicle. Apparently this worked extraordinarily well.

Prof Thaler’s main insight is that we are not quite the rational beings we tend to think we are (at least not in our economic decisions). He indicates that given two options, we are likely to pick the wrong one even if that means making ourselves less well off. Jumping direction momentarily, the conversion story of the great apostle Paul (formerly Saul). is like this: he is persecuting the church and is on the road to Damascus and then amid a blinding light from heaven he hears God’s voice saying:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Now the goad was that pointed stick farmers used to steer their animals along in the right direction and God had already been active “nudging” Paul along until he could no longer resist the call of the risen Jesus. So does God have a “Nudge Unit”? Well I reckon so, and a very good thing too – for left to our own devices we would all go blindly along much to our own detriment! So for me the lesson is plain: “seek never to begrudge His nudge”.

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I am the Pastor at Thatcham Evangelical Church in West Berkshire. This is an FIEC (Fellowship of Evangelical Churches) affiliated church.