Friday, November 10, 2006

Faith and Prudence

"There I was with no food in the 'fridge and no money for rent. I thought God had given me a mission to care for these kids...." Pat (a pseudonym) was voluntarily unemployed, having taken big risks for God, and things were not looking so good.

Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin..." (Matthew 6:28). Does that mean that if I get a vision from God of something he wants me to do for others, that I should quit my job and pursue that vision?

Today's reading from the Proverbs brought that story, and that question to mind:
The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.
Proverbs 27:12
Do financial ruin, or even just eviction and hunger, constitute danger? If so, did Pat "keep going and suffer"?

I don't know. But I think that people have different levels of tolerance for risk. I'm toward the low end of the spectrum; I have a hard time imagining myself ever doing something like that. Pat obviously has a higher tolerance than I do for that sort of thing.

Pat probably isn't sure whether I'm just prudent or devoid of faith. I wasn't sure whether Pat is filled with faith or lacking in prudence.

I'll tell you what happened next in "Pat"'s story. A big check came in the next day, Pat's tax-free foundation was established, and the ministry is thriving today. So did Pat read the Lord correctly? What do you think?

That was a trick question. If we say "it worked out all right, so it must have been God's will," we're falling into a trap of mistaking blessing for approval. In other words, the rich are blessed by God and the poor are their own victims.

The correct answer is, "I don't know." Was Pat a little too careless with her personal finances? I don't know. Would God have provided for her ministry if she had put it on hold to pay her rent? Maybe, or maybe not.

Was God honoring the prayer and actions prompted by Pat's faith? Was it because Pat walked right up to the edge that God decided to act? Maybe, maybe not.

As Lewis says, "Nobody is ever told what would have happened." I am glad Pat did what she did, and I'm sure the kids are too. I don't see myself doing anything like that any time soon, though; I would really need to be sure.

God doesn't guarantee the outcome, but he promises to be with us. And perhaps that's better.

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