The Idolatry of Safety – Part 1

When did we start expecting our missionaries to come back alive and unharmed?

The Idolatry of Safety

If you look back through church history you see this is a new expectation. Back in the day, the Christians who went out to preach the Gospel had already died (to themselves). They saw their lives as nothing.

The Moravians packed their luggage in coffins as they went out to the nations of the earth. Sometimes they even sold themselves into slavery to reach “unreachable” slaves. They didnt expect to come back. They expected to change lives.

Do we as modern Christians not trust our King to keep us safe, until He sees fit to bring glory to His name through our passing?

Or do we bow to a different throne?

Both the early church and the modern Chinese church pray not for safety when they send their missionaries out. They pray instead for boldness. This prayer represents a different value system. The early church considered the martyrs crown a badge of honor. Why do we try to avoid it at all costs?

Living a dangerous life does not make you more righteous. Danger and risk are foolish goals. But, making safety a goal is idolatry. The only goal for Christians is Christ and His Kingdom.

Those who change the world for Christ take risks. They act in ways the world and the lukewarm church may consider reckless. But they change lives while those watching from the sidelines wonder why God isn’t moving.

There is an old word for this idolatry we don’t use much any more. The word is cowardice. Cowards idolize safety. Heroes are those who do what is dangerous despite their fear to help others.

I have been taking teams to the bar district in Austin for nearly four years. When I invite people to come they almost always ask, “Is it safe?” Normally, I explain how no one I have taken has ever been hurt or robbed. But inside I want to shout, “Why does it matter? Is the point of Christianity not to bring glory to God by shining His light in the darkness? We must go to dark places to shine His Light there. These people are dying! Do you only care about your own safety?”

Of course I don’t say that. I just bottle up my frustration and smile hoping they will come anyway. Sometimes they do. But only because I convince them it’s safe.

What are we living for? Which Kingdom are we trying to build? Our bodies will pass away. The Kingdom lasts forever. Why not pour out our lives for the Kingdom?

I know not what course others may take. But as for me, I would rather live a short life devoted to my King than a long one filled with the lukewarm pursuit of safety.

What do you think? Do you make safety an idol? Have I gone to far? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of PracticalCourtship.com, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “The Idolatry of Safety – Part 1

  1. You are largely correct. But you cannot expect a Christian to be willing to face permanent physical death for the Savior when he isn’t a daily living sacrifice (Rom. 12). What is at the root of the condition? Jesus loved us enough to lay down his life for us. But we do not have that same degree of love for Him. We don’t love Him. Why we don’t love Him is another question, but we simply don’t love Him. That is also why we live ineffective, unfruitful lives. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. ” Rev. 12:11 I would say this means loving not your life – period; not clutching it, not owning it, not spending it the way you want to spend it…. even if it means death.

    On the other hand, we must not foolishly take “risks” either. As you said, “Living a dangerous life does not make you more righteous. Danger and risk are foolish goals.” Foolishness is not commended by God. Responsible stewardship demands practicing safety as much as possible without compromising the task at hand. God gave a conditional promise of safety to Israel: “Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.” The desire to live and dwell safely is inborn, and not to be mocked or criticized.

    What we must remember is what the Psalmist expressed in Ps. 4:8, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” The question we should ask when faced with anything is not “is it safe?” but rather, “Lord, is this what you want me to do, if so, when, and how should I go about it?” If we do what He asks, when it is His time for it to be done, the way He wants it done, then, live or die, the safety factor is His business.

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