We also must not be reckless or foolish in putting ourselves in danger. As is so often the case, it is a matter of seeking what it is that God wants us to do, and then doing it. But it must be done in God’s way. When Moses killed the Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, he meant well, but he was acting in the flesh. But many years later when he stood before Pharaoh and defied him to his face, he was acting according to God’s express command. Both actions were very risky, and both had consequences, but only one was done in God’s way, in God’s time, and with God’s enabling.
Lately I have been speaking about the issue of risk and how life is always about trade-offs: getting the right balance between sensibly being safe and secure, yet not becoming a virtual slave with no freedoms to achieve such safety. Governments have to weigh up the pros and cons on such matters as do individuals.
So too do Christians. We do not want to be reckless and foolish when it comes to putting ourselves or others in danger, but we do not want to be paralysed by fear and never take any risks. Biblical balance is needed here, along with some common sense.
All this has especially come to the fore over the past 18 months as we have dealt with Covid. I have written often about the issues of fear, risk, freedom and safety. An early piece on this is found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/04/18/corona-and-the-elimination-of-risk/
And a much more recent piece is this: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/09/11/fear-safety-and-slavery/
I revisit this set of topics again because I was recently asked by someone how I might reconcile various biblical themes. He wrote:
I’ve been praying a bit about whether I should fight for the helpless or not. I see things of Evil everywhere and only desire to honour God in His ways. I’ve made many wrong choices by thinking I was doing things Gods way, then realised later it was not His will. I came across this proverb 27:12 today and even though it seems wrong to hide, yet it’s seems clear to me, it’s His way. I was reminded of Gideon hiding in the wine press from his enemies. What’s your thoughts in this please?
A fair question, and an important one. I did offer him a short reply at the time, and I trust he does not mind if I speak to this matter further here. What follows then is a much larger version of the response that I gave to him:
As to this proverb, it is actually repeated twice. The ESV rendering of Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12 puts it this way: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” The HCSB renders the verses this way: “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover; the inexperienced keep going and are punished.”
These two proverbs speak to the matter of being wise in the face of danger, and of not putting ourselves in harm’s way unnecessarily. As such they offer good, sound advice to all of us. We always need to take care, to be cautious, and to avoid recklessly endangering ourselves and those around us.
But that is not the end of the matter of course. Sometimes we must do risky things – things that may well result in harm to ourselves – even death. That too can simply be a matter of common sense. Most people, if they hear a child screaming as a stray dog is attacking him or her will rush in to try to rescue the child. They know full well that this can be risky, and they may well get hurt in the process.