I’m not that big of a risk taker.
Sure I like adventure just as much as the next guy, but only when my safety can be pretty well guaranteed. This is especially true now that I have a wife, a kid, and another on the way. Suddenly taking risks becomes a lot harder because there’s more to lose.
We live in a culture obsessed with safety and comfort. Have you ever noticed some of the ridiculous safety labels on your household appliances? Do I really need to be told not to iron my clothes while wearing them? There’s a difference between taking risks and being stupid. A risk promises some chance of reward, some return on investment. Stupidity only promises ending up on failblog.org.
Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
Safety and comfort give us an illusion of control in a world full of uncertainty and chaos. Sometimes that can be a good thing. But other times our desire for control will leave us paralyzed to the point that we no longer act out on faith. How many churches are more concerned about maintaining the status quo to keep certain members happy than they are about taking risks, stepping out in faith, and truly transforming their community?
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
The church, especially my tradition, likes to reduce everything down to a pattern. Churches of Christ emerged at the height of the modern era, a time where the scientific method and reasoning shaped the way we viewed the world. There is order, there is a design, there is a pattern to everything – including God and faith. But how much about God and life do we still not understand? How many things is science still unable to explain?
Another translation of the verse above is “As you do not know how the spirit enters the body as it is formed in a mother’s womb…” We still don’t understand that! And yet we have it in our minds that we can understand how God works? That’s just silly.
The point the Teacher is making, I think, is that there is a theological reason for risk taking. No one can know what kind of pay-off they will get for whatever venture they pursue. It is the nature of life that some things/ideas/businesses/people fail and others succeed. But that does not mean we should never take risks. Quite the opposite! If God is moving, I want to be a part of it. But he’s not going to put a flashing neon sign pointing me his direction. That’s why Jesus tells us to ask, to seek, and to knock. It’s not just going to be handed to us. We’ve got to look for it, and that involves risk.
Think about the parable of the servants who were given bags of gold (aka “talents”). Jesus says that a man was going away for a while and he entrusted his wealth to his servants. So what was expected of them? Did the master expect them to bury it in the ground and simply keep it safe until he got back? No! He expected them to act on his behalf – to do what he would do. The first two servants took risks and gain huge rewards. The third servant kept his gold safe and was reprimanded for it.
Through all this study I came to a conclusion. This world is not about comfort and safety. This world is about risk and danger and taking chances. The next world is about comfort.
God has entrusted us with his creation. He has blessed us beyond belief. But it’s not just so that we can sit back and have everything spoon fed to us. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others – and much of the time that means taking risks with what he has given us! To be a “good steward” is more than just protecting and keeping safe our material blessings and the people under our care. Being a good steward apparently means that God expects us to take the same kind of chances that he would.
This world is going to be full of risk and danger because this isn’t heaven yet.
So go ahead and “cast thy bread upon the waters.” What do you have to lose?