The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (fifth edition) defined freedom as ‘a state of not being a prisoner or a slave’. And this is what God has given to men – Freedom. He gave us freedom to reason, desire, speak, make choices and decisions, and to be independent or subservient (depending on some cases); these among other things we find ourselves doing without hindrances. Hence, freedom evokes joy and gladness, as it did when the former colonies (Nigeria inclusive) gained their independence from their former colonial masters – an event which they find cause to celebrate annually. The Lord made us in His image and likeness, and because He is free, He lets us enjoy freedom too. What marvels the Lord does for us. Indeed we are glad.
The height of joy we attain is dependent on the kind of choice we make of our freedom. Let us explicate this by investigating this scenario: In Mk. 10:17-23, a rich man was not contented with the happiness engendered from obedience to God’s ten commandments. He wanted more because he felt within him that he had not attained an apex of the joy of the Lord. He took the right step to approach the source (Jesus) of what he sought (the kingdom), but he could not accept the criterion (of detachment from the allure of wealth to submit to Christ) to meet this point. Christ observed and loved his enthusiasm to want to serve God (vs. 21), and knew that what he so desired could only be attained if he freed himself from his dependence on the security of his wealth and followed him (Christ – the way, the truth and the light to the kingdom and the kingdom himself, come down to earth and to men).
Christ also emphasized here, the joy in giving. For the love of man, God puts all His other creations under man. He kept on forgiving and giving man to the point of giving His Holy and only begotten Son. Christ loved man so much so that He humbled Himself to becoming man and died for the sins of men. While He lived on earth, He preached the secret of the kingdom as the acts of love and giving, thereby creating chance for all to enter His kingdom: “Let the children come to me and don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” Mk. 10:14-15. “Truly, I say to you, whenever you did this to these little ones, who are my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” Mt. 25:40. These little ones are the poor and needy that need our help, and by our benevolence to them, we merit the kingdom of God. This is because giving, not only frees us from our sins (Mt. 5:7), but also engenders inner joy and gladness in the giver who sheds off the burden of selfishness. So, give to the least of your brothers without expecting, because the reward is in the joy of the kingdom, first experienced within you while on earth, then in a place you look forward to.
Finally, Christ was not condemning being rich, but emphasizing that “happiness does not consist in leaving all one has, but in being free of it all in order to submit oneself to Christ.” (Christian Community Bible – Catholic Pastoral edition, p.100 of New Testament footnote.) The kingdom of God, which the rich man sought, is “in sharing on the uncertainties, happiness and liberty of Christ.” (Ibid). And so Christ invites the rich man to free himself from the allure of wealth and follow Him; to pick up his cross, to lose and renounce himself to the world, so as to mature in spirit and experience the inner freedom and profound happiness, he so seeks.
Today, many people relish in the knowledge that God has given them freedom to choose. And so, they choose to conform to the standards of the world with the intension to enjoy the best of the world that they can, before they die. Hence, they adopt the Epicureans philosophy: not to worry much but dine, wine and merry. They call the manifest and temporal corporeal enjoyment they get from their self-indulgences and licentiousness – life. For this reason, they work hard to enrich themselves so as to enjoy this ‘life’, thereby, neglecting the life of the soul and spirit. They make this choice in spite of the warnings: against HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases; smokers are liable to die young; drunkenness, being a state of temporal insanity, can lead to abominable acts and deaths; too much cholesterols is bad for the health; greed, gluttony, envy, etc; are sinful.
This is not to say that working hard to enrich oneself is wrong. As a matter of fact, it is good to desire and work hard to achieve your desire. This is because it is God’s will that man invests in his talents for self-actualization (Mt. 25:14-30), but also as service to Him and our fellow men. It is in seeking Him first, that He sanctifies and fulfills our every other desire. And so, in the overall, corporeal enjoyment is momentary, limited and perishable; but a healthy soul is a joyous spirit which happiness is ethereal and eternal.
Let us not even venture on those who choose the path of crimes and evil, because no iota of delight can be detected in these. Let us simply discard them as choosing the path of doom and need serious deliverance. May God open their eyes so that they can see and discover the right route to the kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
Freedom is good, as well as intoxicating. It was so intoxicating that: the Israelites were quick at forgetting God’s wonders at freeing them from Egypt and became infidels; Nigerian leaders forgot the struggles of our courageous and selfless colonial Nationalists to gain freedom and so plunder the nation’s treasury for themselves and their unborn hundredth generations; the adults neglect their duty to young ones for vain things; the youths are getting more difficult to discern a right-thinking from a mentally derailed; and the children or infants are being vocal enough to call their parents – silly. Freedom is indeed good, but how you choose to live it can make or mar you.
Having discovered the ramifications of the choices we make from our freedom, perhaps we can reconsider them, in order to change or maintain our choice, depending on which we have been living by. Which do we consider as true freedom, that which choice is limited to the standards of the world, that which is God’s and His kingdom, or that which is evil and reprehensible? May the Spirit of God guide us in our choices. Amen.
By Ifeanyi O.C.
[Written August 2005; Published in the October 2005 St. Dominic’s Church, Yaba Lagos, Children Harvest Magazine – Flowers – P41]