Special Note: This article is included in Jim’s book “An Attitude of Thankfulness” along with 19 other articles and is available for purchase in Paperback and eBook formats at this link: Jim’s Books
Recently my wife and I shared dinner with my former boss and ultimately my business partner, Steve, and his wife, Minnie. The fellowship was rich and we really enjoyed the time together as it had been more than a year since we had seen each other. We had talked on the phone and exchanged emails and messages many times. But that was not the same as being with each other in person. Steve is my very good friend, not just a business partner. Over the years our friendship has grown to a point of trust … a trust that embodies mutual respect and even compassion for each other. Steve and I enjoyed a long and successful business relationship. Our personalities are quite different, but I like to think that we fill in each other’s gaps making each of us stronger. Steve has stood by me through some tough situations and I can never repay him, but only thank him deeply, for being such a good friend.
Steve is widely known for his strongly held opinions. Steve knows how to say “out loud” what others are thinking internally but will not say. He is also well-known for his self-descriptive sayings. I know that most of these sayings are not original with him, but he always seems to have the right quote at the right time to drive home a point. One of his favorite quotes that I first heard him utter twenty-five years ago is “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … then it’s a duck!” His point was as obvious then as it is today and I will never forget where I first heard it!
Over dinner as we were each discussing our grown children’s lives and marveling at their rapid progress toward independence, Steve provided another of his appropriately timed sayings when he said “If you want to hear God laugh, then tell Him you have a plan!” This came at a time when we were discussing how our children and Grandchildren’s lives and “plans” had quickly changed once they faced the reality that they, too, would soon become parents themselves.
I have thought about this saying repeatedly over the last month and have laughed along with God at myself and how many times I shared my plans with Him only to have Him in His great wisdom laugh at me and guide me to His plan instead.
Scripture: (all ESV unless otherwise noted)
Psalm 59:5-8 – 5 You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse Yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah 6 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. 7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips— for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?” 8 But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.
Proverbs 1 :20-27 – The Call of Wisdom 20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof,behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
Proverbs 2:1-5 – 1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Psalm 37:12-13 – 12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, 13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
Psalm 2:1-6 – Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
While the saying “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him you have a plan” didn’t remind me of a specific scripture verse, it certainly seemed to me to be consistent with the Bible’s teachings. Upon doing some research I found that the saying likely originated with an old Yiddish proverb more than a thousand years ago, and perhaps even longer. Wikipedia has this to say:
“Yiddish (ייִדיש yidish or אידיש idish, literally “Jewish“) is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken in many parts of the world. It developed as a fusion of Hebrew and Aramaic into German dialects with the infusion of Slavic and traces of Romance languages. It is written in the Hebrew alphabet.”
The Yiddish proverb is “Men tracht und Gott lacht.” Roughly, this is translated as “Men plan and God laughs.” In relatively recent times the proverb has made its way into some popular songs. Comedy writer and movie director Woody Allen is also credited by some with originating the saying, but it is clear to me that Allen drew from his Jewish heritage and teaching to somewhat popularize this saying.
The Bible does have a number of relevant scriptures on the subject. In Psalm 59:5-8 the writer implores God to “… Rouse Yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil.” The Psalmist then continues that as a result of their plotting (and planning) “But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.“
Solomon speaks of the laughing of God in The Call to Wisdom recorded in Proverbs 1:24-26a quoting Him as saying – “24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity …” When we make our plans independent of God, the scripture tells us that God laughs at us knowing that apart from Him our plans will fail. Additional verses like Psalm 2:1-6 and Psalm 37:13 records the consequences to “nations” for planning and attempting to execute their plans without God saying: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision (Psalm 2:4).” And further in Psalm 37:13 (NIV) – “but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming.”
As an example of how God thinks differently than man on many subjects, consider the following scripture passage dealing with the sin of partiality from James, the brother of Christ:
James 2:1-5: 1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
What we see at work in these verses is God dealing with the personal prejudices and sinful partiality of those Jewish Christians in the Jerusalem church. Jesus spoke to this in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3 when He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Isn’t this just the opposite of what man would think? It seems that God is in the business of disrupting our lives … taking us off our planned courses … teaching us that His way, not our way, is His will for us. If you want to hear God laugh, tell him you have a plan … especially if your plan is not in keeping with His plans. Never be too timid or afraid to follow God’s plans. Rest assured that His plans for you far exceed anything we can conjure in our limited human minds.
As a final note, consider The Plan of Salvation. If humans had developed this plan you can count on it that it would not be “free” and available to all. Instead, it would include a list of things that one has to accomplish before he is granted eternal life. Thankfully, that is not what God requires of us! I can just see Him laughing at the countless millions on this earth who are trying to work their way into His Heaven!
Heavenly Father, praise you as the creator and owner of everything that was, is, and shall be! Forgive me for trying to impose on you my plans. Help me to discover your plans for me and give me the courage to follow behind you and execute those plans. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.
Related Links and Articles:
- In His Time
- Lifestyle Choices and Biblical Truth
- Seven Keys to Successful Christian Living
- “Do!” – A Call to Right Christian Action
- The Believer’s Sufficiency in Christ
- In His Own Image
- How to Become a Christian
- A Summary of All of Jim Davenport’s Articles
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