“Council rubbish truck reversed into our car in the car park. Am contacting insurance company.”
Fortunately, the mental image that I had conjured up at that point bore no resemblance to the actual damage, which was some scratches on the boot and a broken light. Even more fortunately, our insurance covered all the damage and gave us a hire car for the rest of the week while our car was put back as good as new. That day I felt unusually fondly towards our insurance company and very thankful that we had taken out such a comprehensive insurance policy.
We always feel much more secure with an insurance policy to protect us in case the worst happens or a rubbish lorry driver doesn’t check his mirrors. It is a risk to be uninsured. But is there also a different kind of risk to being insured?
Late December, I was looking for an alternative way to approach my daily Bible reading. I had done the Murray McCheyne ‘read the Bible in a year’ for several years, and though I’d found it immensely helpful, I was looking for a change. Someone on Twitter suggested a new programme: reading the Bible in 6 months. The way we would do it was to read Old Testament and New Testament concurrently, but straight through (6 chapters of OT, 2 chapters of NT, 1 Psalm). And then we would tweet about our discoveries and questions. This is a different approach to how most of us do our ‘quiet times’ – this is speed-reading and conversation as opposed to slow, meditative reading in isolation.
I’m only 2 weeks into the plan, but I have found it to be exhilaratingly exciting, and have found it very fruitful to be reading so much of it in one go. Let me explain how ‘speed-reading’ gave me an ‘aha’ moment with Genesis 15. (The insurance story does connect with this, I promise). The trouble with just reading one chapter at a time is that often we miss the greater context. For the first time, I noticed the context before Genesis 15 (God’s promises to Abram), and it totally changed the way I saw it.
In Genesis 14, Abram goes to war with the King of Sodom (and others) against the king of Elam (and others), and is victorious in battle. Afterwards, the King of Sodom, extending a hand of friendship (and perhaps peace treaty?) offers Abraham a share of the plunder, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself” (Gen 14:21). But Abram refuses, explaining that he swore an oath to God that he wouldn’t accept anything from the King of Sodom, “so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.'” He did not want to be obligated to the King of Sodom in any way.
Now if I were Abram, I would have had a few sleepless nights after that conversation. In many ways it seems like utter folly. Abram is in a strange land, by himself with few or no allies. He has every reason to feel fearful and vulnerable. An increase of riches would give him more power and security, and it would probably pay to ‘play nice’ with the King of Sodom, to cement the alliance with him by accepting his gift.
And this is why I was struck by the power of what God says to Abram at the start of chapter 15,
Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
Your very great reward. (Gen 15:1)
God says to Abram, in essence, “I know you are feeling vulnerable and afraid – but don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about that plunder – I will be your plunder. Don’t worry about riches; I am your riches. Don’t worry about the potential covenants or peace treaties that you could have entered into for your protection – I will be your protection. Don’t look to others for these things; I will provide them for you.” He continues by reiterating the promises to Abram to give him descendants and a land (vv4-7) and in verse 18, the Lord makes a treaty (covenant) with Abram.
It seems like foolishness to be signing up to a treaty with the Lord, of all the potential candidates to be signing a treaty with, when there are so many present dangers surrounding Abram; but it is wisdom.
Before, I always read Genesis 15 as God coming in out of the blue, saying nice platitudes to Abram. When I read it in the context of Genesis 14 it was much more powerful; God speaking truth into his situation and fears, calling on Abram to trust Him. I love that God spoke into his fear and self-doubt and gave him reassurance by repeating what he had already promised.
But I also hear the challenge of discipleship. I am someone who is very risk-averse. I like to have a ‘plan B’ in case my ‘plan A’ doesn’t work out. I am the kind of person who saves for a rainy day, rather than spending everything at once. I think it is sensible and responsible to take out an insurance policy. Deep down, I think that Abram refusing this potential ‘insurance policy’ with the King of Sodom was not a very sensible decision.
However, the God of the Bible is not sensible – he is bigger than sensible. The call to follow Jesus is a call to follow wholeheartedly, not compromising, not taking out an ‘insurance policy’, just in case God’s promises don’t work out. This is about letting opportunities slide, not grasping after every opportunity to gain money or friends. This is about prizing God as more valuable than any other relationship, valuing his covenant as more valuable than any security that the world could offer. This is about saying, with Paul,
…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. (Phil 3:8)
It is generally a good thing to be sensible, and the Proverbs are full of sensible things. But it is also good for me to remember that at times it is more important to be un-sensible, for the sake of gaining Christ.
Over to you:
- What does it mean to you that God is your shield and your very great reward?
- Can you think of a time where you have made an ‘un-sensible’ decision for the sake of Christ?
- Can you identify ‘insurance policies’ that you are tempted to rely on more than God?