re-post: The Danger of Making Your Experiences Fit Reality by Brad Sumner

The Danger of Making Your Experiences Fit Reality

I love the book of Job.  To me, part of the fun in reading it is assessing what part of the various speeches are true and square with God’s picture of reality and what parts are vain or idle words (of which all parties are guilty at points).  That’s why Job 21 is so intriguing to me.  Job’s friends have spent the better part of their speeches to date building a case that the wicked do not proposer and that everything they have will be riped painfully from them as God’s judgement on their behaviour.

But good ol’ Job looks around and notes that this isn’t usually true. He notes that the wicked “spend their days in prosperity, then go down to the grave in peace. And yet they say to God, ‘Go away. We want no part of you and your ways. Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us to pray?’” (Job 21:13-15).  Job’s assessment of the situation seems Prosperity-gospel-motivation1fairly realistic and level-headed to me.  People with no regard for God, both then and now, often do fine at business, parenting, finance, marriage and life in general.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  The prosperity gospel is alive and well.

But poor Job’s friends can’t resist an opportunity to moralize, so they do something that is all to common then and now: they find selective stories that fit their worldview and they pontificate and over-spiritualize them ad nausea.  What they fail to realize, however, is that their selectivity doesn’t square with the overall data of experience.  Job reminds them “Look, I know what you’re thinking. I know the schemes you plot against me. You will tell me of rich and wicked people whose houses have vanished because of their sins. But ask those who have been around, and they will tell you the truth. Evil people are spared in times of calamity and are allowed to escape disaster. No one criticizes them openly or pays them back for what they have done.” (21:27-31).   His friends have conveniently ignored any examples that don’t fit their worldview or make their point effectively.

So next time you go to tell as story as an illustration of a point you are making, you might want to ask yourself if you have a sneaky habit of finding and sharing only blogs or tweets or experiences that agree with your pre-formed opinions. Or do you genuinely allow the aggregate and long-term data around the issue to speak for itself?  If you don’t you might be making your experiences into a reality that doesn’t exist!

Brad Sumner is the head pastor at Jericho Ridge Community Church in Langley BC. He has an amazing ability to open up the bible and challenge your everyday thinking.  This is a re-post of his latest entry on his blog Leadership Confessions on TypePad.  http://leadershipconfessions.typepad.com/leadership_confessions/

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