22 May 2008

Good Luck To Ya

“Well, I wish you the best of luck with that surgery.”

“Joe, we’re Reformed remember? Luck has nothing to do with it. Everything is in God’s Providence.”

“Well, I was just speaking in the vernacular. You know what I mean.”

Yes, I do know what he means. The above was a conversation that preceeded nasal surgery I had last Friday. I had not talked to Joe in years and in God’s Providence, talked to him about a week before my surgery and the above is part of that conversation.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. Joe has been a Christian for at least the last 25-30 years and has been through some difficult providences himself which would lead me to believe that he should now have a grasp on the doctrine of Providence which would, in my opinion, cause him to speak correctly. Nevertheless, he wished me “good luck.” If my surgery depended on luck I never would have left my bed last Friday morn.

To some this is a trivial matter. Everyone talks that way, “you know what I mean” Joe said. But as Reformed Christians I think its time to start talking like who we say we are. “Luck” should not be in our vocabulary. God is in control, not some wishy-washy, hopeful expectation of events, that I hope go my way. Let’s recall q&a #7 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What are the Decrees of God? The Decrees of God are His eternal purpose, According to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own Glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. (Q&A #11 of Keach’s Catechism is virtually the same.) And, how about a verse like Eph.1:11 which reminds us that all has been foreordained: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

So why do we persist in using incorrect language as we go about our daily lives? Unbelief is one reason that comes to mind. We don’t really believe what we say we do. Laziness would be another. Lazy to the things of God. Embarassment is likely another reason. We don’t want to talk differently from others and bring attention to the fact that we are different from those around us. I think its time we take account of our speech and listen to ourselves. Its time to be faithful in the little things for how else can we be faithful in the bigger things?


Anonymous said...


I must friendlily disagree, being one who has said similar things to others in the past. Here's why.

When I've said such things in the past (eg "Luck has nothing to do with it, etc"), I've ended up putting the people around me (eg my wife) on pins and needles that they'll say the wrong thing, theologically.

Precision in language is important--in science. Arguably, theology is a science, and so when we speak about theology, we should hold ourselves to those standards of precision: "sanctification" when that's what we mean, "justification" when that's what we mean, and not confusing them, etc.

But, nobody achieves that level of precision in everyday speech, and that's not a big deal: despite the best attempts of the language nazis, languages really are not standardized, and language itself is fluid. I think that gives us heartburn sometimes as Reformed Christians, but it's true--and in fact I would argue that we see it even in the Bible.

Sure, maybe we could choose better words... but you did know what he meant, you understood the sentiment, and that's the whole purpose of language. It's not an end in and of itself. It just works to narrow down the meaning that we're intending to communicate.


Reformed Renegade said...

I guess I have to dig my heels in on this one. I see no difference between everyday speech or any other kind of speech and therefore, "whatsoever ye do in WORD or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Col 3:17. We are not given an out because we're speaking off the cuff or to a friend. When we speak as Christians we represent God and what we believe about Him. Would it be OK to teach a Sunday School class with "precision" and then wish the class good luck during the upcoming week as they exit? I don't think Scripture allows for that and I would ask where it does. God has made us a people of language and we must therefore use it correctly in every possible situation.
Yes, I did know what he meant but only because I have heard that ungodly phrase all my life. The sentiment by the world would have meant that "I hope you are ok when you're surgery is complete and you don't have much pain." Frankly, that's not very comforting nor is it biblical. "I'll being praying for you that all will go well" or "God's best to you with you're surgery" would have been much better. Either of those would have kept God in the forefront as indeed He should be in every area and situation in our lives, no?

Stephen said...

You're right - we need to recover our language!

Anonymous said...

Of course, we should seek to be Christ-honoring in our language.

We just need to make sure that in doing so, we don't become jerks. This means there's a time, place, and audience for our speech. If an atheist friend sincerely tells me "Good luck", he is unwittingly being Christ-like, albeit imperfectly, toward me. I'm not going to turn around and rebuke his choice of words. A Christian friend, perhaps, depending on the circumstances, is a more appropriate audience for such correction. And certainly, my own language ought not to be accusing me when I make such a correction.

I am reminded that I ought to live in peace with all men, and that love also, not just truth, ought to be my first motive.