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The Greatest Risk You Face

"Fear Factor" was the crazy, wacky TV show where people walked tight ropes between tall buildings or allowed themselves to be locked in a tankful of slithering serpents or swallowed a bucketful of some kind of foul looking and smelling worms or insects, etc. At phobialist.com you can read a list of fears that range from A to Z. Whether your fear is ablutophobia (fear of washing or bathing) or zoophobia (fear of animals) or anything in between, fear truly is a factor for millions. An interesting fact about us humans is the way we do risk assessment — how we decide what and what not to fear. Jeffrey Kluger wrote about this very thing in a Time magazine article entitled "How Americans Are Living Dangerously"
(November 26, 2006; www.time.comitime/magazine/article/0,9171,1562978-7,00.html). Kluger observes, "Shadowed by peril as we are, you'd think we'd get pretty good at distinguishing the risks likeliest to do us in from the ones that are statistical longshots. But you would be wrong. . .We wring our hands over the mad cow pathogen that might be (but almost certainly isn't) in our hamburger and worry far less about the cholesterol that contributes to the heart disease that kills 700,000 annually. . . .we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities, building barricades against perceived dangers while ignoring real ones. . . .We put filters on faucets, install ionizers in our homes and lather ourselves with antibacterial soap . . . At the same time, 20% of all adults still smoke, nearly 20% of drivers and more than 30% of backseat passengers don't use seat belts; two thirds of us are overweight or obese." 

In Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, ancient King Solomon describes a group of people at great risk spiritually. They "go to the house of God" (vs 1), yet make rash and hasty promises (to God) they don't keep. Three times Solomon warns such behavior places them in peril of being classified as "fools" by God (see vs 1, 2, 4). Attempts to worm out of commitment to God are called "sin" and such people are warned God will "be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands" (vs 6). Solomon reveals the real problem when he says bluntly they should "fear God" (vs 7b). This passage reveals the greatest risk a person can take. That risk is not that you play the stock market or eat a cholesterol-filled fast-food burger and fries or breathe second-hand smoke or don't wear your seat belt or don't wash your hands before you eat. The greatest risk in life is not that you don't have health insurance or retirement funds. We fear and seek to build barricades against these and many other kinds of perceived threats (economic recession, crime, high blood pressure, etc.). Yet, millions who assess these threats fail to recognize or even consider the riskiest behavior of all — ignoring God or, like the people in Ecclesiastes 5, talking a big game while not walking the walk. Jesus warned about the greatest risk of all in Matthew 10:28 — 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The greatest risk you face is not that you may die with cancer (etc.), but that you may die without God.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ