Being safe and taking every precaution to make sure we don’t cause harm to others has been elevated to a higher risk than I can remember in my lifetime. Companies are retooling their methods and messaging. It is practically impossible to avoid hearing the message, “Stay safe, be healthy.”
Last time I raised some questions about safety. What is safety? Has it been elevated to a pinnacle virtue? In this post I want to further explore these questions within a biblical worldview.
I think there are two problems when we elevate safety to the highest virtue. One is we believe a lie and the other is we forget a truth.
Elevating safety to the highest virtue is a trap built on lies. In order to be absolutely safe we would need to know everything. We don’t. And because of that fact, we can never protect ourselves or our families from all risk. We also can’t control all the factors in our lives. If we try we’ll drive ourselves crazy. Does this mean we just throw up our hands and avoid taking any precautions? Of course not! But can you relate to this experience of mine? I remember going to the grocery store back in March when we didn’t know a lot about this virus and I tried to logically think through how I could possibly avoid all contact with things and people so I would be safe. Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer; you are all too familiar with the drill by now. It quickly became a maddening exercise and I could sense the fear creeping in, wanting to grip my heart. We know a lot more about the virus now and how it spreads so I can make more informed choices but the temptation to control and try to sterilize our whole environment is still there. It’s a lie we’re tempted to swallow every day. And believing it won’t just make you crazy but you’ll end trapped in a maze of guilt where you’re always questioning whether you did enough to make sure you didn’t inadvertently expose yourself or someone else.
I heard John Piper say this the other day on a podcast and I’m trying to preach it to my heart and mind every day – I am not God.
The second problem with elevating safety to the highest virtue is we forget God and his character. It’s not enough to admit we’re not God. We need to go further and remind ourselves constantly of who our God actually is according to the Scripture.
We forget that God is God. He is all knowing and all powerful and ever present. He is sovereign. We may not understand how this can be true, it might raise really uncomfortable questions, but the Bible is clear that God reigns over the good and the bad. After Job’s wife told him to curse God and die because of the suffering he was experiencing, Job said, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” The Bible says Job didn’t sin in saying this. (Job 2:10) When Joseph’s brothers feared retribution for all the evil they had done to them, Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20) And Ecclesiastes 7:14 says this, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”
God also reigns over the big and the small. He set the stars in place and calls them by name (Isaiah 40:26) but he also knows the number of hairs on our head. (Luke 12:7) God sent an angel to strike down 185,000 Assyrians in one night (Isaiah 37:36) but also made a plant to grow overnight to give shade to a disgruntled prophet. (Jonah 4:6)
So God is God, completely sovereign over all but God is also good!
If you read the whole of Isaiah 40 you see sovereignty back to back with goodness. Isaiah 40:10 says, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” This is sovereign power, but it’s followed with tenderness in verse 11: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” And at the end of the chapter you see it again. Verse 28 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” The Lord is the eternal Creator who has all knowledge, but next you see merciful condescension: “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” These contrasts are sweet and comforting counsel to our fearful hearts.
So don’t fall into the trap that you have absolute control over your life and environment. You are not God. And meditate on the truth that God is God, sovereign in power and limitless in understanding, but at the same time absolutely good, gentle and merciful.
Next time I’ll go back to the passage in Luke 12 and finish these thoughts on safety with a sobering reflection.