Today, let’s do a thought experiment (this phrase is one of my rabbi’s favorite phrases). Can you do it? Maybe you don’t know what a thought experiment is? Another way of saying it is, use your imagination!
Imagine you were in a foreign land. No, you are not a visitor. You are a citizen. A national currency doesn’t exist. Instead wealth is measured two ways: by the size of your family and by how many animals you own. By both of these definitions, you are fabulously wealthy. In fact, you are probably the richest person in your country. Where did all this wealth come from? Maybe you inherited some from your father? I don’t know, but I suspect the bulk of it came from your own thriftiness and attention to detail. Your wife runs a well-ordered household, which frees you to look after your own business. And what a business! You excel in agriculture and animal husbandry. Your herds number into the thousands. To look after all these animals, you employ a veritable army of servants who are knowledgeable about their job and operate with incredible efficiency.
All this wealth does not mean that you abandoned family or religion in order to accumulate it. Your children are happy and well looked after. They do not sponge off your wealth and good will. Rather, they have established their own identity apart from your house. Birthdays cause celebrations and your sons look after their sisters with grace and an admirable chivalry. You also are active in your faith community and have a deep spiritual connection with your God. In short, life is good. No reason exists to complain about the unfairness of life. Somehow, you have unlocked the secret to having a successful life, while acknowledging the gracious hand of God on your life.
BUT . . .
The story turns. It’s your oldest son’s birthday and like always, he is hosting his own party. All of his siblings gather there for an all day party. Otherwise, it’s a normal day of work. Yet by nightfall, you receive word that a storm has flattened your son’s house, killing all inside. None have survived. All your wealth now has no heirs but wait! You have no wealth. All of your herds and animals have either been destroyed or stolen by roving bands of thieves and marauders. Remember that entire army of servants? All are dead, except for a few. Every single, cultural signifier of wealth and greatness that you once had is gone. Zip, zilch, nada. In less than 24 hours, you have gone from being among the greatest men in your country to one of the poorest. Now to complete this thought experiment . . . having gone through all that, what is your response?
By now you’ve probably caught on that I’ve asked you to imagine yourself as the Biblical Job. But that is alright. The life of Job teaches us many things but here is one small lesson I caught from a recent devotional given in my church. Job’s response to the loss of his wealth and family is stunning. Bear in mind, he lost everything. In modern parlance, he didn’t have two nickels to rub together. His response, in effect, was this: “I came with nothing and I’ll take nothing with me. God can give and take as it pleases Him. Praise his name!”
I really doubt that anyone of us will lose, like Job, all of our possessions and family in one day. Indeed the chances of complete loss is very nil. But what is a given is the loss of something we hold dear. It doesn’t matter the why or how we lose something dear. In the case of Job it was Satan attacking his household. Other ways of loss might be God refining us, God redirecting our lives, or natural circumstances. However we want to look at it, we choose our response. In our response, we choose to focus on ourselves and what we have created OR we can choose to glorify God with the response we give. While we often would like to think our response to the BIG things would be God-honoring, our response to daily happenings is equally important. We need to recognize our responses to the smaller things ultimately makes the difference. To use another thought experiment. If I were a parent whose daughter had been killed in the Nickel Mines schoolhouse shooting, I will be less likely to extend forgiveness if I don’t practice forgiving others or overlooking their selfish actions on a daily basis. But, if I DO forgive and look past someone else’s selfishness, I build my “God-honoring response muscle” and that makes the choice to forgive my daughter’s murderer so much easier.
To build to those “mega life moments” like what Job or the Nickel Mines community faced is as simple as a choice that is made in the moment and as difficult as living a lifetime of choices that lead you to those moments. So tomorrow, when a commuter cuts you off in traffic or your coworker is unpleasant to you, what’s your choice? If Job can respond the way he did in the aftermath of such over whelming loss, can we not have a similar response when we forget our phone charger at home, or we’ve gone into overdraft in our bank account or any number of smaller things we might face in a normal day?
What choice are you trying to build toward? A selfish response or one which exquisitely reveals the Father, though it is shrouded in mystery and pain?
Ignite the discussion,