Slideshow image

Death & Taxes   

It is often said that there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. We’ve all heard this phrase before, but I wonder if it is actually true. Biological death is a guarantee for mere mortals but it is, I think, conceivable that a government could collapse and with it the taxes owed, though, admittedly, this scenario is far-fetched.    

I’ve also heard it said that ‘death and choices’ are the two recalcitrant realities of human existence. Or, how about adapting the phrase to, ‘death and changes’ as the two defining, universal features of, not only human existence, but all biological life in the universe. Death and change maybe be the only two things you can’t change.  In this short blog I would like to drop all the talk about death and focus on the concept of change.  

Why We Don’t Like Change     

Change is inevitable. Change is a necessary part of being alive and growing. Yet change is often resisted fiercely. The reasons for this are plentiful:

First, change tends to suggest a loss of control.  We like to be in control, but when things start changing the outcome can begin to feel largely out of our control and because many of us are control freaks, this is unnerving.   

Second, change creates stress. With change come new challenges, new people to meet, and new techniques to master, new geography to learn. Change can create a steep learning curve and with that comes significant stress.      

Third, only unhappy people want change. Content people are content with things remaining the same. For happy people, change suggests the possible loss of happiness. For unhappy people, change suggests the possible arrival of happiness. Yet there is no guarantee that change will bring the unhappy person happiness and there is also no guarantee that change won’t bring the happy person unhappiness. So for the content person the best bet is to leave things the way they are, which is basically my version of Pascal’s wager on the prudence of betting against change. Happy people, therefore, should always resist change.  

Still, change is inevitable so how do we learn to welcome it instead of always resisting it? One way is to recognize the value and importance of change.  

Why Change is So Valuable       

First, change is a sign of life. Stagnancy is a sign of death. The only things that never change are dead things (that is not entirely true, but you get the point). That is why the last seven words of any church are  ‘we have always done it this way.’ A refusal to change and adapt is an invitation to decay and die. All growth will come through change. George Barna, a well-known Christian researcher, writes, “At this moment of optimum opportunity, Christianity is having less impact on people’s perspectives and behaviors than ever. Why is that? Because a growing majority of people have dismissed the Christian faith as weak, outdared, and irrelevant.”[1] If this is the case, and many would testify to this sad reality within the western church, then change must occur. Not change in the fundamentals of the Gospel message, but a willingness to adapt our methodologies to the ever-shifting cultural climate; a failure to do so is really a forsaking of the great commission to make disciples of all ethnicities and cultures. This type of change, however, requires trust, leading me to my next point.  

Second, change allows for trust. Change, especially unwelcomed change, exposes the illusion that we are in control and teaches us the true nature of our contingency. This allows control to be substituted for trust. Control will choke out a relationship with people or God. Trust will allow a relationship to flourish. Unforeseen and unwelcomed change reminds us we are not in control and acts as an invitation to trust our creator. The state of the church in the western world requires change that provides the opportunity for this type of trust.   

Third, happy people may not welcome change, but joyful people embrace it. It may be true that happy people don’t want change, but this happiness must, by its very nature be superficial and fleeting, because change will happen. There is something better than happiness on the market of human emotions. It is called joy. Happiness is rooted in what happens, it is circumstantial. Circumstances must be favorable for happiness to be experienced so this emotion will fall constant victim to change. Joy is firmly grounded, not in the moment, but in the God whom encompasses all moments and circumstances. When we discover this God to be both good and forever for us in Christ, we have cause to be joyful. Change can force us to draw our joy and sense of well being, not in the changing tides of human fortune, but in the God who is sovereign over all the raging storms in our lives.  For these reasons and many others not mentioned, change should be embraced as a sign of growth, an invitation to trust and, all in all, a gift from the living God.

[1] As quoted in, Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, James H. Furr, Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 35