Yesterday’s daily prayer reading was from Galatians 4:4-7, what some might call a climax in Paul’s theological discussion in Galatians.
Jesus is born under the law to free those under law (not just Mosaic law, but also the “elemental spirits” Paul mentions immediately before this… the spirits that kept the non-Jewish pagans in bondage).
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7)
Our systemic role changes; we are not slaves, but free people.
Our expectation changes; we are children and, therefore, are heirs.
Inheriting something is interesting. Usually the person who inherits something has little to no decision-making power in the transaction. The person who gives the gift of inheritance makes the decisions and upon their death, their decisions are distributed.
If you have ever been a part of a process where a family sorts out belongings of a family member, you’ve experienced the dark side of this process. Much of the anger, hostility, and drama has nothing to do with the stuff that is inherited, but the living family members dealing with the loss of the loved one through the possessions.
I have a friend who just finished administering Christmas bonuses. The company usually gives out very generous bonus amounts. Some bonuses might even be as high as 15-20% of a person’s yearly income. The difficult thing with this type of generosity is that people expect this type of “bonus” every year. The bonus (initially given as a surprise, gift, etc) is now an obligation.
Instead of recipients being thankful for the extra bonus, they compare what this year’s bonus was with last year’s and seek to find out what other people received against what they received. If someone is not satisfied with the bonus they receive, there is a chance that they begin to complain about a bonus… an amount of money that others would be entirely grateful to receive. Who knows, someone might even want to leave the company over their frustration.
So, generosity and the idea of inheritance can become toxic, divisive, and antithetical to its original purpose. A gift can actually become slavery.
Israel, chosen by God as his people to be an advanced model of faithfulness in God’s world allow their election to be grounds for pride and arrogance. John the Baptist called it “presumption”. (Matthew 3:9)
Non-Jews who were exempt from the Law may have assumed that they were free because they didn’t have to enact the way of life that the Israelites did with their festivals, sacrifices, meticulous ethical piety, etc… But, the “freedom” doesn’t present a way forward, anything can be worshiped, adored, and given highest worth.
One of the Hebrew poets, observing some of these worshippers, once said,
“But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” (Psalm 115:4-8)
The object we worship transforms us into its image. It drains us of flesh and blood and makes us into sub-human creatures.
If my net worth is a bank account, all of life is viewed in deposits and withdrawals.
If my net worth is my job, I’m only as satisfied as my last sale, my last review.
If my net worth is my friends, I will seek to always be needed or noticed.
If my net worth is sex, I will always be seeking another partner.
The inheritance that the believer receives is harbored in relationship. We are God’s children, therefore, we are heirs. When we get to enjoy the benefits of being in God’s family because God gives us good gifts.
When we are given a limit or a boundary, we do not see it as a threat to our freedom, but a common commitment as participants in God’s family. “We’re God’s people,” we say, “we don’t do that.”
The “yes” and the “no” come from a place of covenant family. The freedom in family is one of the most pleasant places where we can belong.