Youngest son Brett recently moved to San Antonio and unfortunately my schedule allowed me to help. I say unfortunately because he chose a third-floor apartment. Part of the fun was renting a U-Haul truck to transfer his stuff from Waco to the Alamo City. As we wrapped up the rental agreement I had to make a choice on insurance. The policy covered any damage except the area right over the truck cab. I asked why and got this answer:
"If you wedge our 12-foot clearance truck through the nine-foot McDonald's drive-through then you are responsible. We don't cover stupid."
I laughed. But then I remembered how much stupid drives our policies and lawsuits. If someone might do something stupid then we have to issue warnings, print labels, and add cost to products for the rest of us to pay. It seems no one just makes a dumb mistake anymore. It is always someone else's fault.
One annual contest is guaranteed to send me into "grumpy old man" syndrome. The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch monitors how silly this can become with its Annual Wacky Warning Label Contest. The competition reveals how lawsuits and concern about lawsuits have created a need for warnings that really should be just common sense. Here are some of the winners over the years:
- A label on a baby stroller warns: "Remove child before folding." This had to be a guy: "Sorry, Honey. I was watching the game and I thought I had taken Junior out. But we won the game! Honey? Where are you going?"
- A brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook on the end warns: "Harmful if swallowed." Catfish and bass testimony available upon request.
- A flushable toilet brush warns: "Do not use for personal hygiene." Seriously? Someone did this? Would a label really help them?
- The label on an electric hand blender promoted for use in "blending, whipping, chopping and dicing," warns: "Never remove food or other items from the blades while the product is operating." That could change the definition of finger food.
- A warning on an electric drill made for carpenters cautions: "This product not intended for use as a dental drill." I make sure my dentist does not buy his equipment at Home Depot. But that's just me.
- The label on a bottle of drain cleaner warns: "If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product." But if they can't read they . . . sigh . . . never mind. That is the lawsuit version of the tree falling question. If a warning is printed for an illiterate person has there been a warning?
- A cardboard car sunshield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns, "Do not drive with sunshield in place." If you do, please read the airbag warning. You will need that next.
- A 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow warns: "Not intended for highway use." Fine. I will buy a spare for the car. Stupid rules!
- A can of self-defense pepper spray warns users: "May irritate eyes." OK, I thought that was the concept, but I will take that under advisement.
- A warning on a pair of shin guards manufactured for bicyclists says: "Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover." I guess, when you think about it, that makes sense.
I wonder if the movement to save us from ourselves has larger consequences. You cannot post enough labels to remove the risk to life. I think one of the dangerous and maybe even unintentionally deceitful things that Christians communicate is that coming to faith in Jesus will make your life trouble-free. Perhaps we should have a label with every presentation of the gospel:
Caution---Jesus says, "in this world you will have trouble." (Read the small print in the Gospels of Mark and John)
Coming to faith does not remove the trouble from our lives. Jesus is not a money-back guarantee for perfect health, unlimited prosperity, and nonstop giddiness. Trouble is a part of life. Problems either refine us or ruin us. That is where Jesus comes in:
"I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world" (The Message, John 16:33).
That is what I have discovered in my journey with Jesus. When life delivers the inevitable I can be assured, deeply at peace, and even unshakable. NBA star Alonzo Mourning faced a career ending illness but his response was interesting: "Adversity introduces a man to himself." I would suggest that adversity introduces a person to his faith. Does it stand up to the hard times? Real faith does. Jesus came to give us real life and to help us get through the risks that living life brings. I can testify that it works. I can also testify that life is full of trouble. Consider yourself warned.