If you want to make God laugh…

If you want to make God laugh…

There is a delightful old Yiddish proverb. Perhaps you know it? 

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans…

The book of James is written in a more serious tone, and yet the proverb fits. James takes seriously that everything that we plan is subject to change. Certainly, COVID 19 has taught us that the plans we made (and even made before God Himself) have had to be adjusted, and perhaps abandoned. James truly teaches us that God is the Master, and we are not! He takes seriously that the only reliable point of life is that God has a plan—and sometimes He tells us… 

As for the rest, we roll with it… 

As I was reading through this epistle a true story came to mind that illustrates the Yiddish joke, and the more serious warnings found in James… 

There was a certain lawyer in Paris France. His name was Jean Raffray, and he was a solid practitioner within his branch of jurisprudence, his specialty. In the course of his duties, he received a call from someone who didn’t have a lot of resources. It was a 90 year old woman, who was now quite ill. She needed to draft a will, and as she was almost 91, and in failing health, she wanted to set all things in order. 

She was too ill to go and see the lawyer, and he was kind enough to visit her in her apartment in Arles France.  On entering the apartment, he discovered that she had a life-long lease, and that these payments took up the larger part of her income. The apartment was well appointed and was situated with a lovely view of the River Seine. As Raffray went about his work, he began to admire the dwelling, and in particular, its location with a prominent view of the river. As it turned out, the two people began to speak about the apartment, the costs, and the fact that none of her descendants wanted to take up the lease and move in. 

Somehow, in the conversation, Raffray found himself making an offer. He asked if he might transfer the property deeds to himself if he would pay her the rental on the unit for the remainder of her days. He indicated that he would absorb the cost of the legal work for her will, and would draw up a contract in which he would take possession of the apartment after she passed away. 

The lady, quite ill, almost 91, without much in the way of resources, and with no compelling reason to retain the flat, agreed. 

Raffray, on his part, used all the skills of his trade to draft a binding agreement that was airtight, and hermetically sealed. Neither party could exit the agreement. The bottom line was that he would pay her a monthly fee for the rental (about $500.00 US at the time). She would continue to live in the unit until she died, and upon her demise, she waived all rights to any heir claiming the apartment. 

All the charts, graphs and tables said that Raffray would have to wait a year or two, but he was in no hurry. It was clear that he had made a wise deal to benefit both parties. He was 47 and in excellent health. She was almost 91 and failing. 

30 years later, Raffray was still paying. In those three decades, he had paid out the equivalent of $180,000.00 US. You see, he made the deal with someone named Jeanne Calment. Calment was/is on record as the oldest human being with verified documented birth records, in world history. Raffray died at the age of 77, fully a year and a half before Calment passed, at the age of 122 years, 168 days (as the Bible says, “Old and full of days”). In fact, because Raffray was such a good lawyer, the deal required his estate to continue paying rent into her apartment after he died. Perhaps he should have read the book of James: 

Let the one who lives in humble circumstances take pride in his high position. But let the one who is rich take pride in his low position. Because he will pass away like a wild flower. 
James 1:10 (NASB)

Can you hear the Yiddish joke?  

Let me quote Eugene Peterson’s masterful paraphrase/translation of James as James talks about human achievement and the plans of God… 

And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, 
“Today—at the latest, tomorrow, we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” 
You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wispy fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” 
As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil…
James 4:13-17 MSG


James understood that God levels the playing field…

© David Chotka, 2020
 



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