“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.” Proverbs 19:2 (NLT)
So this is my final piece on King Josiah’s unnecessary and premature demise (2 Chronicles 35:20-25). It might interest you to know that Judah never again had a righteous king. From Josiah’s death onwards, the nation went down the tubes. His unwise decision to go fight Egyptians robbed his nation of one of the best kings they ever had! As I’ve been saying, Josiah was a great man who made a fatal mistake, literally fatal. I don’t think it was so much of a flaw in his character, but an ill-fated decision made in haste.
My motive isn’t to find fault with an otherwise brilliant light in Israel’s history, rather to glean some lessons on how we might avoid poor performances of our own. So I’d like to offer two more suggestions about how we might conduct ourselves and live a little longer in the process. I’ve indicated thus far how we might not be so quick to discount the counsel of pre-christians and how we should reject any sense of duty to fight on every evil front.
Don’t wander too far away from your gifts and calling.
The great King Josiah was a lover not a fighter. Not to say that he had no fire in his belly or that he was some sort of scaredy-cat. But the aggression that he had stored up inside him, rather than on the battlefield, he wielded on Asherah poles and Baal altars. He tore down those idols and ground them to powder! Check out the radical thing he did with the powder!
Who knows? Maybe it was the media, or his peers, or his own inner voice that egged him on to man-up and lead his army into battle. “Any battle with do!” The headline reads: “A real king would ride out in front of his men, give stirring speeches, and cry charge!” Why not? He’d done everything else that godly kings do. Maybe he should try his hand at war! Then again.
I think we should focus our time and attention as much as possible to the things for which we’re called and gifted. I know from personal experience how easy it is to get all tangled up with holy-sounding, macho-appearing causes that are outside our wheelhouse. Paul notice the tendency when he wrote, “We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.” 2 Corinthians 10:13
Josiah was a spectacular spiritual leader of the nation, but the only time he went out in battle he was killed (at thirty-nine!). That’s got to mean something. I used to think of myself as the most hypocritical person in the church because I was always teaching people how to identify their gifts and then limit their service as much as possible to the use of those gifts. Unless we’re called to sub for our injured catcher, we should stay put at second-base. That catcher’s gear is like Saul’s armor to anyone but a catcher!
It reminds me of the dog who skittishly slinks around town with his tail between his legs when anyone comes close to him. But put him on the porch of his own house and try to sneak past his snarls and growls. He knows where he belongs and it’s there that he displays his greatest chutzpah. We’re always better on the turf to which we’ve been assigned.
To the old saying, “Live to fight another day,” I would add, “and maybe consider fighting in another way”!
Any thoughts on how gifts and calling should serve to reign us in from immersion in ill-advised cases or causes?
Don’t be reckless with the life you’ve been granted.
I’ve heard it said that your life is God’s gift to you and what you do with it is your gift back to him. So it makes sense to take care of your body, soul, and spirit, if for no other reason, for the sake of the glory of God and the good of people. It’s sometimes true that the good die young, but that doesn’t mean we should follow Josiah’s example and prove the theory by being stupid stewards of our lives.
Since he had another date with destiny to keep a little while later aren’t we glad that Jesus didn’t “test the Lord (his) God” and jump off the Temple? Though we’re not supposed to live in fear or be safety-obsessed, especially in those times when God calls us to dangerous places, we shouldn’t be all macho about it either!
Live as healthy a life as you possibly can so as not to cut your life short with too many Twinkies, too much sedentary video game playing, and too much weekend barhopping. Live simply and wisely so you’re free to do God’s bidding even to venture into treacherous situations if he calls. But don’t choose those yourself out of some sort of real-Christians-take-risks paradigm and take long walks through the ghetto after dark with hundred dollar bills hanging out of your pockets!
I’m all about adventure and risk taking in the service of God, but not out of some sense of spiritual heroicism. I totally expect to be scared once in a while doing something I think God wants me to do, but I try not to be stupid about it or addicted to the adrenaline it provides.
Of course there are other brands of recklessness than just the physically dangerous variety. For instance, for some people their social engagement habits are nothing less than irresponsible. In the name of spiritual courage they barge into people’s lives without their permission, insult them, and take great pleasure in the rejection they receive, thus spiritualizing their offensive behavior. Someone said, “Courage is not measured by how many people you can offend.” Jesus offended people when necessary, but not as a sporting event.
If people routinely make a run for it whenever you walk into a room, rather than assuming your spiritual superiority, it might be time to check your social filter (or deodorant). C.S. Lewis said, “Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst.”
The kind of people I avoid most often are opinionated ones. The opinionated person is not the same as one who has opinions, but is the person who thinks everyone needs to know their precious opinions. We all know people who seem to have an opinion about everything and everyone. It just seems to me too much for any one human brain to contain. I actually feel sorry for people who “know” so much about so many things and have solutions to all the world’s problems. The burden must be horrific! Maybe if they dropped some of those opinions they’d have room for the things they should actually care about. Just saying!
I might mention one other form of relational recklessness called, “co-dependency.” This is where, because of your obsessive need to be needed, you find yourself rescuing people to both your own hurt and to theirs. You’re a fixer of all things human. Like Josiah, you barge into circumstances where you don’t belong and leave a bloodier wake than the one you found. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Samuel 23:16: “Jonathan helped David find strength in God.” He didn’t try to be his friend’s strength, he merely helped him find strength, and find it in God. It’s one thing to be available to God and to hurting people and quite another to obsess over everyone’s problems, thus sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If these symptoms sound even vaguely familiar, my advice is that you leave some the wounded people in the world alone for someone else to minister to! Don’t horde all the joy of people-helping!
All that said, my counsel to you and myself is avoid dying before you’re supposed to!
Any thoughts on these or other forms of reckless Christianity?