Can we see the fountain?” Ben, my 4-year-old, asked as we pulled up to my workplace. “Absolutely.” His eyes lit up. As I unbuckled him from the car seat, he practically leapt to the ground and took off for the entrance.
Due to occasional scheduling conflicts between my wife and me, there are times when one of my children needs to join me at work. Most of our time together is quiet, with Ben drawing on a legal pad at my desk. But there is a routine of specific locations that must be visited around the office: the elevator, where he pushes all the buttons. The small fountain in our front lobby, where he’s—once again—disappointed there aren’t any fish. But most important is the large meeting area in our organization’s IT Department—not because of the three large television screens, or the oversized and colorful artwork adorning the walls, but because of the contents within a little clear jar capped by a stainless steel lid. A jar full of candy. Lots of candy.
As we were ending our day at work, Ben ran up to the container and asked if he could take a piece. “Yes, but just one,” I said.
From outside the jar, he watched his hands snaking through the pieces until it arrived at the wanted item—a fun-sized Starburst packet. Remembering my own childhood love for the candy, I told him I thought he had made a wise decision.
“Yeah! Because there are two in here—I can give one to my brother.”
I froze. Did he just say what I think he said? On his own, without prompting? “That sounds like a good idea,” I said cheerfully. Inside my heart was melting. I had my parenting win for the day. The only addition that would have made the moment more special would have been if a co-worker or two were there to witness it.
In both our home and community, moments like these with our children are bright spots indicating that something right is happening. From the moment they could walk, our kids were stingy and territorial with their belongings. If another brother received something, they demanded it as well. They prioritized their desires over others. And while these characteristics were addressed during that time, the boys sometimes came into conflict with cultural norms and practices as they grew older and their social circle expanded. Individualism reared its ugly head, which led to hoarding and suspicion of others; it also robbed them of opportunities to see and provide for needs besides their own. In “Freedom’s Responsibilities,” his devotion for September 2, 2020, Dr. Charles Stanley reminds us that giving up our personal rights for the sake of the gospel can be painful and confounding:
Our goals as believers will not always be aligned with the goals of our nation when it comes to how we respond to the freedoms we’ve been granted.
Our rights are among the most difficult things for us to relinquish, and that’s because letting go of them often feels unjust. After all, they are by definition a claim that we are morally or legally entitled to have something or to act in a certain way. Yet in order to serve Christ more effectively, the apostle Paul chose not to insist on certain rights and privileges.
Our goals as believers will not always be aligned with the goals of our nation when it comes to how we respond to the freedoms we’ve been granted. Because the United States was founded on a paradigm of individual liberties, we have a propensity to merge our ideals as a culture into our ideas as believers. We want to have the freedom to do as we please, but to what end? To protect ourselves and become more insular? Dr. Stanley continues: “Jesus set us free from the power of sin so we could obey the Lord, and part of obedience is serving one another unselfishly ... If we believe that God has liberated us only for ourselves, then we have missed the point and are abusing our freedom.” Dr. Stanley references 1 Peter 2:16—a piercing verse: “Act as free people, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-servants of God.”
Instead of looking at what our neighbors possess to make sure we have more, we should seek only to make sure they have everything they need, including the very liberation that He has granted to us.
Illustration by Adam Cruft