31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:31-37
In the United States, we live a life full of options. On several mission trips to Central and Eastern Europe, my wife and I realized just how many options we have with something as simple (to us) as peanut butter. While our local grocery store provides many varieties of peanut butter, we couldn’t find one in Czechia. We look at all the options we enjoy here, and sometimes feel that it’s an example of freedoms we enjoy in the States. But is that really freedom?
Our Declaration of Independence frames our freedom with the words ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’. These are rights which cannot be denied. There are many things that we could slot into ‘Life’ and ‘the pursuit of Happiness,’ but do the options we pursue equate to freedom? Is that what was in mind when these words were penned?
Boundaries, or limits, have existed since Creation. In Genesis 1, God creates order out of chaos by setting light and dark apart, separating land from sea, all of which imparted limitations on existence. And yet, Adam and Eve were given a single limitation, and they couldn’t live with it. It seems things haven’t changed much over the centuries. With all the options we enjoy we find difficulty confining ourselves to living within boundaries.
We serve a counter-cultural God. To find freedom, we must surrender, and to find life, we must die (Mark 8:34-35). In reality, there’s great freedom in pursuing fewer options. Defining boundaries in life can release us to experience freedom. Predetermining choices with either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can solve many issues that are overwhelming. For example, saying ‘no’ to a packed schedule can give you margin in life to do some of the things you’ve always put off, like spending more time with family, or perhaps with the Lord.
Do you feel as if fewer options are confining? Perhaps turn that thinking on its head and considering fewer options as a path to freedom. Stepping into surrender to the Lord will bring a stronger sense of freedom than can ever be found by piling on more options. Pray a prayer of surrender today, taking Jesus at his word, and enjoy the true freedom he provides in what previously felt like confinement.
By Rich Obrecht