The Reality and Paradox of Risk-Taking
Can a person be a Christian and not take risks?
But what makes a risk a risk? It’s the unknown. Humans are finite beings and in a world where we truly have control over very little, if anything, this makes the unknown seem nearly infinite, which means there are a lot of possibilities for loss and injury.
There are some things that people seem to have some control over. People can and do make choices, and these choices limit the amount of possible loss or injury, therefore minimizing the risk.
Risk Is Reality
The strange thing about being a Christian though, is that Jesus calls us to be risk-takers. Jesus calls us to give up control.
For the one who would put their faith in Christ, risk is reality.
In Matthew 16:24-28, Jesus asserts that if any person would follow Him, they must be willing to suffer loss for His sake so that they might save their life. To follow Jesus means being willing to risk the loss of everything.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed (emphasis), all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s a guarantee of injury when we follow Christ.
Despite the clarity of the Bible, I find myself thinking sometimes that I need to take risks. What I may have in mind, along with others who think similar thoughts, is that a risk is an abnormally large act of faith. And there may be a time for ambitious obedience and the possibility of greater loss and injury.
But it seems to me that on our finite side of things, every act of obedience is a risk. A person can’t live for Christ and not take risks. The only way not to take risks for Christ is to do nothing and live in disobedience because every act of obedience is an act of faith, and faith is what it is because we can never fully know what will happen when we act. On the other hand, Godly risk-taking means exercising Godly faith. If you desire to live by faith then you will take risks.
The Risk Paradox
So why would anyone ever live by faith if to do so puts a person in the realm of the unknown where loss and injury are a promise? Are acts of faith a risk or crazy?
In the short term there really is such a thing as a risk and it does seem crazy. Why would a person ever give up safety and comfort for loss and injury? It’s not American.
On the other hand, what is crazy is to never live by faith and take risks for Jesus.
In Matthew 19:16-30, Jesus has an encounter with the Rich Young Ruler who does not want to give up his wealth to follow Jesus and have eternal life. Jesus demands he live by faith and risk everything, and the rich man walks away.
A conversation ensues between Jesus and His disciples and Peter asks the question: “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
Jesus responds by saying that whatever was temporally lost in this life for the sake of following Him, will be worth it when “many times as much is received along with eternal life.” (V. 29)
Jesus turns everything upside down. Taking a risk in this life is not what is crazy. What is crazy is to not live by faith in Jesus Christ and be a risk-taker.
Jim Elliot said it this way: “He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
If you want to follow Christ you will take risks – in the short-term. But if you follow Christ you will never take a risk – in the long-term.
For the Christ-follower, risk-taking is a reality and a paradox. You will take risks in this life, but it turns out that it is eternally no risk at all.
So walk by faith and take risks. That is the only safe thing to do.