Freedom But Not Opportunity For Self-Indulgence

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. –Paul (Letter to the Galatians)

Three sentences. So much wisdom packed into them.

For those who wished to get right with God or the gods at the time of Paul, the work was all on you. You had to do things to make the gods happy with you. If you were Jewish, that meant following each one of the 600+ laws. Every minute of every day. You had to be worried about breaking a law. Other gods had their requirements.

Then Jesus came and set us free from worrying about following laws and doing things to earn God’s favor. In fact,  we can’t earn it, he said. But, God will grant us his grace if we but believe.

So, we have gained freedom. To this day, people everywhere are hoping to gain their freedom however it is defined in their culture.

But Paul knew. Like little children who first taste freedom, we take that freedom as permission to do whatever will satisfy our desires. That is why Paul teaches not to use freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.

We see results around us. Jails and prisons are full of people who went too far and then lost their physical freedom. Therapists and counselors are kept busy with the emotional/psychological results of too much freedom spent too freely.

People throughout the centuries have hated that word “slave.” They thought it taught weakness. Loss of freedom. They are wrong.

Paul shows us the alternative. To be successful at life, we use our freedom to help others. It is the spiritual lifestyle.

It is also practical. We know–and teach–in business and marketing to focus on solving a problem for our customers. Make the customer’s problem our problem. In that sense, we are becoming a “slave” to our customer.

If we are in a family, group, organization where everyone is a servant, then we have a successful experience. Life in the Spirit trumps living in self-indulgence.

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