How should believers deal with risk?

In the Scriptures God teaches us how to deal with risks.

We are subject to chance.

Solomon observed: “I returned and saw under the sun that - The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, 12).

“Time and chance happen to them all.” Life involves risks and the Scriptures tell us how to deal with these risks.

We are liable for preventable risks.

“When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it” (Deuteronomy 22:8).

Most houses at that time had flat roofs that were used as living space. A wall around the edge of the roof was required to prevent people from falling off.

Love for our fellowman motivates us to make conditions as safe as we can. If we fail to take reasonable safety precautions in a dangerous situation, we are morally and sometimes even legally responsible for resultant damage or loss of life.

Once when I was driving along a rural road, I suddenly saw a child - barely big enough to walk - standing in the middle of the road! I stopped, took him by the hand and said: “Come! I’ll take you to your mother!” When I went around the house, his mother first reacted very negatively. Someone had her child by the hand! I explained that he had been standing in the middle of the road.

Fortunately, I saw that little boy and was able to stop. But what if I couldn’t stop because I was recklessly speeding?

Even if you drive very carefully, bad things can happen. Once at night in Holland, a cyclist suddenly shot in front of our car. He was supposed to yield but did not. In the dark I did not see him at all until he was in front of the car. By braking very hard, I barely missed him.

I know a brother whose wife, sister and two children were all killed when they were crossing a road. They were hit by two teenage boys who were racing. At high speed their cars came over the hill, side by side in both lanes.

Jesus teaches His followers to avoid unnecessary risks.

“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25, 26).

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace” (Luke 14:31, 32).

Risks do not justify laziness.

“The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’” (Proverbs 26:13). This lazy man is using a fictitious or at least a very improbable risk as an excuse for not going to work.

In the parable of the talents, the master expects his servants to trade with the resources entrusted to them, which involves risk. The master said to the man who hid his talent in the ground: “You wicked and lazy servant” (Matthew 25:26).

Risks may not be misused as an excuse for being lazy.

Diversification reduces risk.

“He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6).

God’s providence does not justify recklessness.

In Psalm 91 “He who dwells in the secret places of the Most High” is given wonderful promises of God’s protection. The devil misapplied verses 10 to 12 to tempt Christ. “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,” and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”’” (Matthew 4:5-7).

Sometimes arrogant people criticize a careful believer for allegedly “not having enough faith”.

Having complete trust in the promises of God does not mean that we may be careless: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3). From this passage we learn that it is foolish to ignore risks, that a wise person foresees risks and takes appropriate precautions, and that failure to do so, has bad consequences.

We must pray for protection. But God expects us to take measures to reduce risk! Jesus warned His followers to flee from Jerusalem to avoid the siege of the city (Luke 20:20, 21).

Misfortune does not indicate God’s disapproval.

Job’s so-called friends thought the terrible things that had happened to him meant that he must have committed some secret sin for which God was punishing him.

This was untrue because Job’s righteousness was the very reason he was being tested so severely!

Christians risk their life to save others.

A Christian girl I knew in university died because she went back into their burning house to try to save her little brother.

Paul wrote: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life” (Romans 16:3, 4).

Christians risk their life to follow Christ.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25).

Barnabas and Paul are called “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).

What have we learned?

God teaches us how to deal with risks:
- We are liable for preventable risks.
- Jesus teaches us to avoid unnecessary risks.
- Risks do not justify laziness.
- Diversification reduces risk.
- God’s providence does not justify recklessness.
- Misfortune does not indicate God’s disapproval.
- Christians risk their life to save others.
- Christians risk their life to follow Christ.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers, unless indicated otherwise.

Published in The Old Paths Archive