A few months ago, I left an early-morning conversation with a friend, and my mind was filled with dreams and visions of exciting ideas and how they might become reality. As I mulled the possibilities, the phrase “reckless endangerment” stepped forward in my mind and stood there in the forefront at attention as if it were volunteering for inspection.
Without thinking about the phrase in detail before, I had always had an impression of the word reckless as if it were affiliated with the word wreck, but with a closer look that really didn’t make sense at all. As I considered it more closely that dreamy morning, I realized it was a different word entirely. It finally hit me that the word reckless must be related to the word reckon, so it has to be related to thought.
In that case, the word reckless is synonymous with thoughtless. I like that. While that idea has all kinds of negative connotations, I was still smiling because I was thinking of it like a challenge. I’m a bit impulsive and stubborn, so when I start to hear voices tell me that I can’t do something, I get resistant. I’m not necessarily recommending that outlook, but there are many of us that carry that genetic profile. (You know who you are.)
As I grappled with this new revelation, and its efforts toward condemning my dreams another thought struck me, reminding me of the radical words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25 from my old King James Version studies:
“Take no thought your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment.”
You’ve got to love that good old King James! The connection was complete. I had an endorsement – and from Jesus, nonetheless! Here was Jesus telling me to take no thought for some very important things. Add a family of 10 children and loads of responsibilities to the equation and that advice has to be reckless endangerment.
Most other translations substitute “do not worry”, or “do not be anxious” for that “take no thought” phrase, and that really makes it even better.
Jesus is actually promoting a lifestyle that is so radical its almost beyond comprehension. He’s saying don’t worry about food, clothing or shelter. Last time I checked, those were considered the basic necessities of life! How could he possibly justify that kind of reckless counsel?
In one sense, this sounds easy, I guess. Truth be told, most of us in middle-class America seldom concern ourselves with these basic needs. I can’t recall the last time I wondered if water would be available for my family, and if we’re hungry, we just eat. The kitchen is stocked, but if we’re running low there are at least six grocery stores and a hundred restaurants minutes away from our front door, and our closets and dressers are bulging with clothes we hardly wear.
In fact, I’m more worried about getting a new pair of sunglasses, or the cost of refinishing the downstairs bathroom, and the birthday gifts my kids would love, and especially the new car I’ve had my eyes on. My ability to relate to the words of Jesus is skewed. I can easily check off that verse and say, “Got that one! What’s next?”
Really, though, I’m only a few steps on a slippery slope from that kind of desperation. Furthermore, I read Jesus’ words and almost feel an enticement to the kind of life that is filled with that kind of desperation. How much more driven toward God would I become if I didn’t have everything that meets my basic needs at my finger tips? Ultimately, I guess that’s what is so appealing to me: Being driven to God. I want to need him more than I do now, but I have to admit I’d rather not have to be hungry to get the motivation.
Jesus went on, in that sermon from Matthew 6, to justify his reckless counsel. In verses 32 and 33, he says: “. . . your heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousnes; and all these things will be added to you.”
Sounds like a great deal. I wonder, though, if we’ve used these words to justify adding things to ourselves, rather than living the way Jesus intends. Obviously, Jesus is not telling us to walk away from our responsibilities and truly be thoughtless. But he definitely is saying we need to stop spending our time shoring up our own support systems and adding bricks to our fortresses and jewels to our crafty crowns. We need to be dangerously involved in his agenda, and trust him to watch our backs for the basic necessities.
After considering these things for a while, even my dreams and big ideas seemed less important. I certainly couldn’t justify worrying about them. I did find some motivation toward more important things, though. I decided to try to pursue the kind of reckless endangerment that was qualified by seeking God first. The dictionary says reckless actions are those that disregard consequences. I’m going to try to disregard consequences more often, at least those that are only damaging to my own little kingdom.
Who knows? Maybe Jesus really meant it. Maybe he will take care of the other things. I guess there’s only one way to find out.