Truth, Understanding, Insight

The Price of Freedom

1st February 2006, sjh


For many years, there has been an emphasis in secular society to value personal freedom. It is contrasted against the oppression that may be seen in countries that are not “free”. Indeed many people have honourably paid a high physical price for the cause of freedom. However, there is a presumption that when people are free, they will be happy and fulfilled. While there is a truth in this, the Bible shows that there can also be a hidden price and that it can be wise to forgo some opportunities to freedom.

At the start of the book of Romans, there is a statement about the cause and effect of the actions of people. It includes a comment on how God gave people the freedom to express themselves and determine their destiny,

Romans 1:22: Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. WEB

People would consider this description to be true of modern lives of freedom. Implicit within it is the well-known fact that people often don't really know what is good for them. It then becomes a punishment that people be given freedom to direct their own destiny, reserved for those who have given up faith in God.

The Type of Freedom

Of course, the value of freedom depends very much on just what it is that a person is to be made free of. For example, people are happy to get married to someone, even though that is something that by nature is the release of a freedom.

Later in the book of Romans, there is discussion about becoming servants. It is presented that people have a choice between being servants of obedience, or servants of sin. The presentation is that one is always subject to a master, and it is a matter of choosing which master to serve.

Romans 6:16: Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto you were delivered. 18 Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness. WEB

The call here is to give up the personal freedom, and instead become a servant to God. So while that appears to be throwing away the valued personal freedom, it brings with it freedom from serving sin,

Romans 6:22: But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life. WEB

Here there were two costs in taking the freedom route and serving sin. One is that it still doesn't really offer a freedom. We are still constrained by our own thought process and that of the society. The other is that God has the special gift of eternal life for his servants, and that is something that sin can't offer to its servants. We can see service to God as like a marriage, in that we give up a measure of personal freedom, but join to something that is bigger and more rewarding, and enjoy a corporate freedom.

Freedom isn't something to desire just for the sake of itself. There are many cases where freedom is valuable and has been hard-earned, however people are never truly free. Freedom from one thing means serving something else, and in many cases that serving may be just of personal lusts that are simply not in our best interests. We must choose our masters, and at least we have the freedom to do that.