Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rather Be Free

This past week has been kind of hard for me. I'm not sure if there is any one thing, or even a combination of things I can point to - it was just hard.

It is during times like this I can feel the weight of going against the flow, of choosing the path less traveled as Robert Frost would put it. Pursuing agrarianism in a corporate world can feel lonely. It is also during times like this that I can fully feel the accumulation of my 51 years (soon to be 52 next month). I am not a young buck anymore, and sometimes I wonder if all this unsettledness, this talk of moving, of change, of farm living is really worth it all.

It is also at times like this that I really need to remind myself why we even began this conversation, this journey. And so, today I remind myself of one of our goals: to be free.

One of the analogies repeated in Scripture is Freedom vs. Slavery. God delivered His people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Christ came to set us free from the bondage of sin and Satan. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." God wants His people to be free. "For you were called to freedom," we are told in Galatians. This makes it all the sadder that so many of us voluntarily choose bondage.

How many of us enter bondage with our eyes open? Many of us just didn't know any better. Perhaps we have never been taught any different. We were just following the examples of many others that have gone on before us. In what ways do we enter bondage? I can find three different ways in Scripture.

Spiritual Bondage
The first way, of course, is bondage to sin. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." But thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ we can be freed from sin and become slaves of righteousness. Most Christians are aware of this kind of bondage and realize that once we have repented of our sin and trusted in Christ for forgiveness, we are to no longer offer the members of our body as slaves to sin. And so by God's grace and power we offer ourselves as slaves to righteousness.

Financial Bondage
The second way we enter bondage, is through the door of debt. Many Christians have, I think, only a partial understanding of this form of bondage. "The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave." Thanks to the ministry of groups like Crown Financial Ministries, many Christians are being encouraged to get out of credit card debt and car payment debt and are experiencing a greater level of financial freedom than ever before. But when I went through their classes, I was taught an exception to this rule. It was alright to borrow for an appreciating asset. In other words, it was OK to go into debt to buy something like land or a home - mortgages were OK.

But is it? I realize that in a culture where everyone is working corporate jobs and living in homes on small lots, there may seem to be no alternative. I know when we built our home, we followed the advice of our local lender and borrowed the limit allowed by my current income. The accepted wisdom was that my salary would increase in time and that the mortgage would become more easily affordable each year.

But God's word is not nullified just because our house is worth more than our mortgage. We are the lender's slave. We choose to enter a form of bondage for the convenience, because it makes things easier. The worst thing is that we signed up for a 30 year mortgage, which means that I would be making payments past my 70th birthday. (Boy doesn't that make me feel old!)

I see this agrarian model, of working the land, of having enough to pass along to one's sons (I'm not beginning a discussion on inheritance rights here - I only have sons), as making this goal of starting a home debt free possible. It was a joy to visit the home of Dan and Sheri Salatin of Polyface Farm. A home Dan and his dad built together, using wood sawn on their own portable mill, on family land, and all debt free.

Occupational Bondage
I see the third way of entering bondage is working for someone else. We have forgotten that a man's goal used to be to "make his own way in the world." The idea was to get your own land, to build your own house, to learn a trade, to set up your own shop. The idea of working for someone else was a temporary setup, either as an apprentice to get necessary training, or until one could afford to get their own place. To always be working for someone else was to remain in perpetual adolescence. The goal was always to be the head of your own family and of your own business or farm. How far we have come from that simple idea. I think part of the problem is that most Christians don't even consider this to be a form of bondage.

And yet, at times we do get glimpses of this truth. How many sermons have we heard on Galatians 6:5ff, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." And each time the application is made to those who are employed by others. It is interesting that in Ephesians we have no difficulty seeing the Employer/Employee relationship in terms of Master/Slave, but when we turn to 1 Corinthians we can be sloth to make the same connection. I think we have become so accustomed to the changes brought on by the industrial revolution that we don't even see what's happened to us. We are like the fish in the water that don't even realize that they are wet.

Rather Be Free
We are reminded in 1 Corinthians that sometimes we cannot help being a slave. Those who were already slaves when they became Christians are reminded that they are the Lord's freedman, in Christ they are truly free. And those who were free when they became Christians are to remind themselves that they are Christ's slave. Whether slave or free we are all one in Christ Jesus. We are not to lose sight of the main point - we belong to Christ. So in that sense, it doesn't really matter whether we are free or not. And so we need to be careful about looking down at others, or even down at ourselves because of the station we find ourselves in.

In 1 Corinthians 7:21, God asks, "Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it;..." However, the verse doesn't end there. Before I give in to a contented apathy and get snug and comfortable in my bondage and say, "I'm just not going to worry about it." God continues the verse by saying, "but if you are able also to become free, rather do that."

If you are able, rather be free.

And so the crux of the matter is answering the question, "Are we able?" As to financial freedom, I would say yes. This will require us to move to a less expensive, rural area, and now that I've been told that I will be able to continue to work my current job remotely, I would say we are able. What about as to occupational freedom? For this one, I'm not too sure. I can easily see myself working until retirement, investing in our future land and in my sons enabling them to know a level of freedom I can now only dream of. "To be able, or not to be able…" That is the question.

If you are able, rather be free.

May we be able, Lord.


At March 25, 2007 5:41 PM , Blogger Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Terry,

This is a great little essay and I thank you for writing it. The part about occupational bondage really hits home for me.

At March 27, 2007 8:06 AM , Blogger tc said...

Hi Herrick,

Thanks for your kind words. This is something I have thought a lot about. I take comfort in God's Word that if I am unable to be free in this area, I am to remember that I am Christ's freedman. Amen!

However, in bringing up my boys, I want them to desire to be free occupationally. It has become so normal in our culture today, to want our sons to "get good jobs" so they can support their families. And what is usually meant by this is to get a good job in a big company. And so we end up preparing them for a lifetime of occupational bondage. How much better to prepare them to farm their own land or learn their own trade that they might be free occupationally.

Over the years the Lord has brought me 180 degrees around in this. I am not by nature one of these independent types that bristle at the idea of submitting to authority. As mentioned earlier, as the youngest of five children I learned at an early age to be a follower. However, as I grow in my understanding of God's Word and the ways of our culture I see that our goal should be to raise our boys to be men that can make their own way in the world (under submission to Christ).

I have also come to understand that becoming a humble farmer working in his fields or a humble cabinet maker working in his shop for the glory of Christ is a noble goal indeed!

At April 4, 2007 3:57 PM , Blogger Ernest said...

God speaks to me through your words. This is incredibly relative to me today and the decisions I'm making for my family's future. Thank you for your insight.

At April 23, 2007 9:20 AM , Blogger tc said...


May God guide and direct you as you seek to follow Him. Thank you for your encouraging words.

At January 3, 2010 2:41 PM , Blogger Providence Acres - Sheryl Gallant said...

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." - 1 Thes. 4:11-12


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