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Choosing the Good

19 Feb

I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and decides, “Today… I’m going to do evil!”

I know they’re out there, but for most of us, evil is not on the daily task list.  At least, not intentionally.  Perhaps that’s why it’s easy to glance over verses like 1 Peter 2:16:

“For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil” (1 Pet 2:16 NLT)

Wait… what does Peter mean to not use freedom as an excuse to do evil?  Freedom and evil don’t go together.  Or do they?

Freedom = Choice

By definition, freedom means we can choose.  One definition is, “The power to determine action without restraint.”  And in today’s world, there are many things to choose from:

  • Do we join that health club with the hefty dues, or not?
  • Do we sign our kids up for sports, dance, karate, scouts, … or perhaps all them?
  • Do we go for that promotion and raise even though it means 80 hour weeks… or not?

You can probably think of at least a hundred other choices that you make in a week, none of which are evil.

But we can’t choose them all, no matter how many energy drinks we consume!

Choice = Priorities

So we are forced to prioritize, whether we realize it or not.  Here’s a great question, especially for a Jesus follower:

What criteria do you use to prioritize?

The Apostle Paul has a suggestion:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Gal 5:13 NLT)

But here’s where our choices can create a conflict: when it comes time to serve one another, how are we doing as a community of Jesus followers?

Priorities = Allocation of Resources

We may serve an infinite God, but we are definitely finite beings.  We only have so much time, money, energy, etc….

But here’s the twist: not only are we finite beings, we tend to be self-focused beings.  The German theologiain Martin Luther explained it this way in the 16th century:

Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them, or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.

Martin’s words are strong, but if this is even partially true, then that means we tend to allocate our resources back to self.  Our time… our money… our gifts… even our faith!

Don’t get me wrong… there’s nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves and our families.  But could there be something wrong if that’s all we choose to do?

When it comes to helping others, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t want to help… but I do know some who can’t help, and I’ve been there myself.

As a result of a recent sermon series at WordServe Church, I have to ask myself a couple of questions as I determine my priorities and allocate my resources:

  • Have I scheduled myself so tight that I have no time to help others?
  • Is my budget stretched so thin I have no resources to help others?

And as I ask myself these questions, I have to backtrack up the chain.

  • Can I not help because of the way I’ve allocated my resources?
  • Have I allocated my resources based on my priorities… or on God’s priorities?
  • If I have chosen something other than God’s priorities, am I choosing to honor God?
Good and Evil

Good and Evil (Photo credit: Profound Whatever)

I think this is where most people find themselves: wanting to help others, but not being able to help.  And it can be a rude awakening to connect the dots that tell me my lack of time and resources are due to my choices.

In essence, my choices have rendered me unable to do good.  My freedom has become an excuse for evil to continue on.  I never intended it to happen… and I picked from a list of good choices.

Making a Difference

But here’s the good news… I don’t think it’s a drastic as it might sound.  We can begin using our freedom to create margin in our lives.  We can create pockets of time, money, and energy to be used for others.

It can begin small and work it’s way up.  What would happen if I:

  • Chose to get more sleep instead of watching late night TV or surfing the web? (More energy!)
  • Chose to eat out less often and enjoy time together as a family at the table? (More money and more family time!)
  • Created intentional gaps on my calendar that can be used to help others… where nothing is scheduled at all, so it’s impossible to be “interrupted?”  (More time!)

(Yes, I know helping others doesn’t always work on my schedule, but if I have “slop” time built in and I’m interrupted during the day, I can use those unscheduled blocks of time to complete whatever got interrupted).

In the end, we can only make a difference if we realize that our freedom can create margin to help others, or it can take away our ability to help others.

My prayer is that we would choose well… and heed the words of the Apostle Paul:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Gal 5:13 NLT)

How do you create margin?  Where do you agree or disagree?  How else might we “use our freedom to serve one another in love?”

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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Group Discussion

 

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