The Slavery of “Freedom”

chain-1461883-1278x1010I think our culture is obsessed with Freedom. Freedom to do whatever we want, and whatever pleases us. It drives a lot of culture, a lot of the stuff on TV, and a lot of the relationships around us.

We think that standing up for our “freedom” to follow our desires and impulses is what it means to be human. That we all have a right to do what we want, when we want, as long as it doesn’t hurt others (or hurt them too much).

But this idea of freedom, isn’t actually “freedom”, it’s slavery. 

All we have done is become absolute slaves to our wants, desires, and impulses and call that “freedom”. That “freedom” is to do whatever – our desires, wants, or impulses are. The problem is that not only isn’t that freedom, it actually doesn’t lead to life. Slavishly following our desires leads to instant gratification, debt, divorce, and all sorts of hurt. When we think following our desires is freedom we become slaves to our basest and worst selves.

David Foster Wallace noticed this and criticized our culture for exposing our kids to it so early. He writes this – this is what we teach our kids:

“That you are the most important and what you want is the most important. And that your job in life is to gratify your own desires…This does not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live… and to be happy – if that word means anything. Clearly it means something different from ‘whatever I want to do’ – ‘I want to take this cup right now and throw it! I have every right to! I should!’ We see it with children: that’s not happiness. That feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire seems to me to be a strange kind of slavery.”

And I think he is right on. The feeling that we need to follow our impulses and gratify our desires is a kind of slavery. It doesn’t lead our kids to happiness to let them do whatever they want, so why should it lead us to it?

But we’ve fallen for that lie and that trap. We use language like, “I just need to follow my heart”, “Well it wasn’t true for me”, “I deserve this because I want this” all the while not realizing we are slaves to our desires rather than masters of them. True freedom doesn’t consist in doing whatever you want when you want, true freedom consists in having these desires transformed and aligned so we can live whole lives. This is why Paul says that he is a “slave to Christ” because he knows that he needs his heart, desires, and impulses changed. He needs to have self-centeredness, greed, violence, and hurt rooted out. Ironically then for Paul to be truly free is to be a slave to Christ, rather than a slave to our desires because Christ sets free in us who we were meant to be.

My point in all of this is fairly simple. Following our impulses and desires isn’t freedom. Those things need to be shaped and transformed or they become self-centered, greedy, and ugly. And having those desires changed doesn’t happen through embracing our “pretend freedom” but submitting to a master, submitting to a path, or as Paul says, “becoming a slave to Christ.” And there is nothing in this world that will set you free for true freedom like Jesus Christ.

Worship…It’ll eat you alive

I read a quote recently that really got me thinking. It’s from David Foster Wallace, the novelist and writer, and he said this:

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship…The compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
And I think he’s really right especially the last line. That anything else you worship will eat you alive.
The biblical word for this is idolatry. That’s when you place things before God, or in God’s spot. And while we do this sometimes either out of naivety, rebellion, or from a mistake, it never ends up well.
Think about it. Greed is essentially the idolatry of money – and greed will eat you alive. Pride is the idolatry of the self – and pride will eat you alive and any relationship you’re in. Position and recognition is the idolatry of power – and it too will eat you alive if you worship it.
Because the truth is what you worship is what will own and direct  you. And with every other single thing we worship other than God, leads us to a place of hurt, difficulty, and pain. Or in the Biblical language – destruction. Or in David Foster Wallace’s language you’ll be “eaten alive”. Chasing after money, pride, power, position, or anything other than God never brings health and freedom.
The trouble with worship and idolatry is that we often don’t realize what we worship until it’s too late. Until we’ve been “eaten alive” – a relationship fails, our identity cracks, or we hit rock bottom. The point is that I think David Foster Wallace is right – everybody worships. The question is what are you worshipping? Is it bringing you health, life, and freedom? Or is it slowly eating away at you? At your hope, meaning, and purpose?