Living in an “Insurance Policy” Society
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)
It has been two months since I have ridden in an airplane. Restlessness is setting in. I possess this unquenchable desire for adventure, new experiences, and the unknown. Do not misunderstand me – I completely agree with Jane Austen when she wrote, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” But comfort alone does not satisfy. It is the place where you are restored before going out again. It is the filling up before the pouring out. I never treasure my home more than when I am away from it. The same way you cannot truly appreciate comfort without knowing the sting of discomfort.
There is a topic which has been mulling around inside of my head for a few months and I am finally ready to attempt and articulate it. So I will jump right in. I hate insurance. More specifically, I hate the concept of it, the way we rely on it, and the ways we find comfort in it. I understand the tangible benefits, I comprehend the well-meaning purpose. I also understand that I have been exceedingly fortunate not have the debilitating necessity for it the way others do. But I despise insurance just the same.
insurance (n): a thing providing protection against a possible eventuality.
Perhaps it is because of the way I grew up. When I was young, we did not have health insurance or 401(k)s. We did not have life insurance and we did not wear seat belts. But then again, I grew up in a small country town and these things were not the norm. When I turned sixteen, I learned about the necessity and the annoyance commonly known as car insurance. Then at nineteen, I got a job that provided above-average health insurance, life insurance, and a 401(k). Although in the beginning I did not fully grasp the benefit of these “benefits,” seven years later I have come to understand and appreciate what a generous company I work for.
Despite all of this, from my perspective insurance is still a luxury. It is something the middle and upper class view as a necessity, but it is not. It is something I am thankful to have, like all the other luxuries in my life, but for some reason this one in particular ruffles my feathers. Now that I can afford it, I almost believe that my monthly eyebrow waxes are a “necessity,” but I know they are not. How? Because I could survive without it. I have spent time in third world countries where entire families could live solely off the amount of money we spend each month “just in case” something unfortunate happens, the money we spend protecting ourselves against possible eventualities.
I am not a gambler – actually I live life on the “safe side” of the line. But what is glorious about life is its unpredictability. Treasuring each day as if it is your last. Sure, some occurrences are severely unfortunate. Yet let us not forget the times life took us completely by surprise, like an unforeseen kiss, as David Crowder might say. How many of us can look back on the journeys that brought us to where we stand today and think, “This is not at all where I thought I would be, but it is so much better”?
I do not believe insurance is bad or evil, but I believe our misplacement of security is. I could be entirely wrong, but in many cases I think perhaps we have such a difficult time with death and disease (natural or otherwise) because we spend so much of our time and resources avoiding or safeguarding ourselves from such things. Whether it is because we are afraid of unpleasantness, or we feel entitled to comfort, we cannot guarantee either.
A friend has said to me many times over the past few months that she feels as though she is just “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” She is not a pessimistic person; actually she is quite positive and discerning. Yet whatever the source of her anticipation, she feels the need to brace herself for an uncertain future.
My house is my largest investment. I fully comprehend why the bank that lent me the money for my house requires me to have home insurance; because if it burned down, I might never be able to pay that bank back. My vehicle is my next largest investment, same story but in a smaller degree. And if I come down with a serious illness or require major surgery, I will be exceedingly grateful to only be required to meet my deductible.
The real question is this: How have these safety-nets transferred our dependence away from our reliance on God? How have our heart’s perspective changed? For a few of you, perhaps it hasn’t. Though for many of us, our man-made securities have greatly misdirected our hearts. Now, instead of my first response to crisis being a plea to God for His guidance, wisdom, and provision, I call my insurance provider to make a claim. I rely on myself to go to work, get a paycheck, reap the company benefits, and then complain when something falls through the cracks. Or better yet, we blame God when something unfortunate happens. “But I’m a good person. I work hard. Why isn’t that covered in my entitlement-insurance-policy? I don’t deserve this!”
Jake from State Farm can help repair the damages on your vehicle, but he can’t repair the damages on your heart. “Play it safe,” they say. “But it’s what responsible [American] adults do,” they say. Caution and prudence are fine qualities, but don’t allow them to beguile you into believing that life is controllable. You won’t find abiding security in your bank account or your life insurance. There is only one thing in this life I am certain of and it is Jesus. (*Disclaimer: He isn’t the safe choice.)
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)