Every time one gets out of the shower on the first floor of my house, there on the bathroom wall is a poster of Nietzsche looking at you. The quote on the poster says, “Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!” Of course what Nietzsche meant by this is anyone’s guess, being an atheist German philosopher of the 1800’s who struggled with the fact that it seemed that belief in God was dead and so a new morality needed to be created. But many people have noticed that quote– family, friends and strangers.
Of course at one level the quote seems absurd– when I was in high school my friend Brian and I used to go out on the rural gravel roads and he would get on top of the car, sprawled out, with one hand holding on gripping the roof through the open windows, and I would speed up to 60 mph, knowing Brian was still on because I could see his white knuckes and fingers on either side of me gripping the car. And I think both Brian and I would say that, looking back, that was probably dangerous and fairly stupid. But we still lived life more vigorously at that point than a lot of our friends were…
Its not so hard to live life dangerously when there is not much to lose. When you are young and single and have very little, its easier to be risky. With a wife, job, kids and mortgage, you get more risk-averse. But even some people who are young don’t like risks. And of course there are some young souls who always take risks– even when they are not so young in age. Part of the reason people don’t like risks is that they want to make sure they are in control of the variables– in control of life. That is understandable– but that doesn’t mean its necessarily the best way to live.
Oswald Chambers wrote for June 27th,
“The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is not time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, ‘Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.’ Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it.”
This is the opposite of my tendency– and the tendency of most of us. We just want to make sure that we get what we have coming– let others suffer what problems they may have. I don’t care if others are stupid enough to get the raw end of the deal– thats none of my concern– but I’m sure not going to be taken for a fool. Our concern is more often for justice for ourselves, our own family, our own children, our own situation– and not others. We can justify it to ourselves as ‘common sense’, as a ‘motherly concern’ or ‘paternal obligation’, as being ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’– or we can not justify it at all, but simply do it because we can and we are cleverer than most. But in any case, we are in some sense doing it out of selfish concern– a concern for self over others, and it is an anti-Christ attitude in that rejects His call that we follow Him in giving ourselves up for the sake of others ‘who know not what they do’. We see it as just taking care of our own business and being responsible. He sees it as rejecting His call to a life that is really worth living– a life of sacrifice that risks what he has given us back potentially to lose it completely and utterly– our utmost for His highest.
Oswald continues: “If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to say, ‘Why should I be treated like this?’ If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. In essence, Jesus says, ‘Continue steadily on with what I have told you to do, and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.’ ”
When we live our lives guardedly, we will constantly give up opportunities to live it for Christ. We will constantly give up those possibilities of really losing ourselves for Christ and His kingdom. We refuse to follow Christ there because honestly we do not believe that Christ is sufficient to give us what we need. We don’t really believe in God at those points…
Again, Oswald says, “Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard– we do not believe Him. We put our common sense on the thrown and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6)
Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It says to lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge God, and He will make your way straight. This is the more dangerous approach– sometimes the less common sensical approach. But in that we are then able to release to God our responsibility and trust that God will provide as we step out in faith for Him, it is our opportunity to not have to be in charge, to not have to try to control the outcomes, and to leave ourselves in the hands of God– intentionally, hopefully, and with expectation of good things. I believe that when we live dangerously like that, that we will, as Nietzsche says, reap the greatest fruitfulness from our lives.
May God have mercy on us all. –andy