The internet is littered with criticism for the Conservative catchphrase, ‘aspiration nation’; Google struggles to offer a positive reflection upon the principle, but such resistance seems predominantly political rather than philosophical. In fact, the condemnation isn’t for the concept, but for a budget that appears only to facilitate aspiration in the few. The honest truth is that the UK, like so many other countries, is populated by people who do aspire to ‘a better life for themselves and their families’. We all want to enjoy life, and provide a finer future for loved ones. At the very least, we want to benefit from the safety and security we have available in our comparatively stable climate.
So recently I read with intrigue John Piper’s Risk is Right, described as a ‘significantly expanded chapter’ from his larger book, Don’t Waste Your Life. Expressing his intention about a third of the way through this short treatise, Piper states that
One of my aims is to explode the myth of safety and to somehow deliver you from the enchantment of security. Because it’s a mirage” (p20).
In a highly predictable conclusion, Piper suggests that taking risks is a right, godly thing to do. Central to the argument as a whole is a shifting of perspective. At the very start of the book, before even defining risk, Piper holds out the ultimate meaning of life, quoting Philippians 1:20-21 to demonstrate that a Christian’s viewpoint is profoundly affected by the gospel. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” And so, when God promises to keep me Christian and save me on the final day (see e.g. Romans 8:31-39; Luke 21:16-18), there is nothing that I can do that is trulyrisky. Yes, I may lose my job, my money, the clothes on my back – I may lose all safety and security; but they are a mirage. If I may put it radically, comfort in this life isn’t normal; the Christian life is supposed to involve persecution. I may even lose my life. But I shall not lose the hope to which I have been called.
There’s no suggestion that taking risks earns this blessed position, of course. It is because these promises of God are already secure for Christians that ‘risky’ decisions can be taken, not in order to obtain them. But that has massive implications for the choices that I make.
Instead of seeking the safest decision – or dilly-dallying until a choice is forced upon me! – I can comfortably take a risky choice, if it is for the cause of Christ. I’m not promised comfort, not even safety. But I am promised eternity with Christ!
The book is short, very readable, and appropriately couched with the nuance required for such a topic. Especially helpful is Piper’s recognition of false reasons to take risks (Chapter 6). We’re not being called to reckless abandonment, and there are good reasons to enjoy the wonderful things that God has given us. But I found intriguing the promises of the gospel that the book powerfully illuminated. I highly commend this book to you.