“Americans typically don’t like risk. We see risk as bad, dangerous. Risk can get us into trouble, ruin our finances, and mess up our future. Most of the time, we play it safe – in our finances, careers and businesses…We’re OK with some risk, but not much.”
Butler begins chapter three with a brief examination of American culture, in which “risk management” isn’t just a job description – it’s a lifestyle. He makes the distinction between “risk” and “greed” in this assessment, saying that “‘risk’ is the danger of losing something” and “‘Greed’ is the desire to gain more.”
American culture is a mess of dichotomies surrounding risk and greed.
On one hand, we’re told that the pot is only so big, that we should work hard, save what we earn, store up for a rainy day, make sure that if we do give any of our money/time/resource away that it is going to something truly worth it.
Scarcity is embedded in the America as inextricably as our fingerprints.
On the other hand though, we are also bombarded dawn to dusk with the message that we need more. That what we have is not enough, and therefore we are not enough. We must have the latest, greatest, shiniest, fastest. Our current home is too small, too old, or in the wrong neighborhood and so we need a new home. Our current car is not safe enough, consumes too much gas, and is lacking in the latest, life-changing features that will warm our hearts and seats simultaneously.
Protect what you have, but constantly be reaching for more. No wonder we feel like our hands are so full.
“Because of this matrix of fear, greed, and scarcity, American culture values safety above almost any value. We want to keep our kids, houses, future, and retirements safe. We have become so obsessed with safety that we have produced a culture of fear…
…The Bible calls it ‘the way of the world.’ Don’t conform to it. Repent of it. Renew your mind out of it. Sin is dangerous, but fear is like nuclear fallout.”
It’s interesting to think about fear being the way of the world, and not something of God.
I grew up, like I’m sure many of you did, praying for safety over trips our church would take.
Assessing whether or not we should be ministering to certain populations based on how much it may be a detriment to our personal safety, our public image as a church or organization, what people might say or think.
Being instructed not to feed or spend time with the homeless, because it was too risky and just not worth it.
And even now, so many people, people who love Jesus a lot, are floored when they find out where Ben, Cadence and I live.
“Is it safe there?”
No. Not always.
But someone once told me that the safest place you can be is in the middle of God’s will.
I clung to this for years, through good times and bad, but I’m starting to move away from that idea, because you see
God doesn’t promise us safety.
There was a song back in the 90’s that went something like “You created nothing that brings me more pleasure than You, and You won’t give me something that gives me more pleasure than You” (“You Created” – Caedmon’s Call).
I think for most of us in the U.S. we derive more pleasure from our own safety and self-preservation than we do from the Lord Most High.
Even in saying that the “safest place we could be is in God’s will” is a bending of our knee to the idols of safety and self-preservation.
“Okay God, I will follow you anywhere because the safest place I can be is where you want me to be.”
What if we went wherever God wanted us to be, did whatever God called us to do, loved whoever God wanted us to love even if it wasn’t safe?
And before you protest, may I remind you that our history as followers of Jesus is rife with the death and destruction of our brothers and sisters for the sake of Christ.
The twelve were beaten, exiled, crucified and otherwise killed like the Rabbi they walked so closely with.
You don’t have to look very hard to find countless stories of missionaries who were endangered or killed for their presence.
Lottie Moon marching through a battlefield in China.
Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and others killed for going to reach the unreached, and moreover, their wives and families staying faithful to the tribe that murdered them and bringing a whole group of people to Christ.
When I think about my spiritual heritage, I’m really not doing anything that crazy or dangerous. Everyone in my neighborhood speaks English. I have running water and heat and air conditioning. I have a car. I eat what I like, whenever I want and drink coffee every morning.
I’m not suffering, but according to so many I’m really living on the edge.
“We come from a long line of risk takers, of great lovers, of those willing to put others in front of themselves, of those willing to pour themselves out for the benefit of others.”
“Where is that risk today?” Butler asks at the end of this challenging chapter.
“We settle for selfish, individualistic, small lives when God is calling us to live into a bigger story.”
What about you? Is your walk with Christ more centered on risk management and the pursuit of safety, or the pursuit of Christ wherever God may take you?
Are you worshiping your own self preservation or the God who calls us to love in extraordinary ways, in dangerous places, to broken people whom God Godself is aching and yearning to redeem?
How big is your story?
“You come from a long line of risk takers. Please don’t settle for safety – take a risk for the kingdom of God. You were told that the world will know you by your love, not your pursuit of self-satisfaction. Let go. Embrace the life God has for you – the life centered around others and not yourself. Do that and you will have a story to tell, a story of redemption, a story of grace, a story of restoration.
You will lose much, but you just might gain everything.”