But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Law that gives freedom. What does that mean? In my world, laws only make things difficult, boring and exhausting. Just think about all the laws that go through your head throughout the day without you knowing it: bring your driver’s license, have auto insurance, wear your seatbelt, don’t speed, obey the traffic signal, use a hands-free device while driving, don’t jaywalk… and the list goes on. And that’s just getting to work!
So how do we understand a “law that gives freedom” when we are constantly confronted with a worldview shaped by laws that confine? First, I have to shift my frame of mind and acknowledge that while the lawmakers who make the rules of the road are fallible and finite, the God of scripture is perfect, powerful and all-knowing. And while both parties may have good intentions in mind for their laws, the latter happens to have hand-crafted each and every one of us, forming us out of His infinite love, creativity and desire for us to be in unity with Him. This helps me trust that the law of freedom has my best future in mind.
We have a golden retriever named Boo Radley. We got him from the Humane Society and have had to work out a few “kinks” in him; the biggest of which is his trust and agression. We’ve worked hard to get him to understand that people are not threats and that if he would only stop growling when he’s scared, that he would enjoy endless sources of treats, petting and praise from all our friends. But instead, he grows stiff, stares you down and seems to say “Don’t touch me or I’ll bite your arm off.”
This is so often where I’m at with God. I don’t realize that the intent of His plans, which are laid out in his law, are for my freedom and benefit. I assume that He is “out to get me” and that I need to fend for myself, when in reality that is the farthest from the truth.
They will be blessed in what they do. Again, this is not always the case for us. Sometimes it seems that we get penalized for following the rules. But this is not the case with God. My wife and I have been married for almost 5 years now and we remember being told how difficult the process would be. We heard horror stories of how painful and miserable marriage is and that we should “avoid the ball and chain” if we could. A friend of mine is getting married tomorrow and I heard people giving him similar advice at his bachelor party.
But the truth is that we are seeing God’s plans play out completely different from the world’s plans. We have seen the joy and lightheartedness that comes from living by God’s law. By being honestly (Luke 16:10), we can trust what each other says. By being patient (Proverbs 15:18), we enjoy grace for each other. By encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), we are strengthening each other. By seeking to serve (Acts 20:35), we are humbled. By honoring the golden rule (Luke 6:31), we are cared for. By stewarding our money (Hebrews 13:5), we don’t fight over it.
We could not have known all this blessing if we did not engage in the law of freedom.
Keeping a tight reign on my tongue. This piece is always a challenge, right? I mean, for some of us it’s about avoiding four-letter words. For others, it’s about sharing information that’s not ours to share or discussing other people when they’re not around. For me, it’s simply learning to be silent.
I catch myself very often wanting to chime into a conversation to add my incredibly interesting, but ultimately self-promoting thoughts or stories. In reality, my contribution is simply to make me feel better. I can guarantee I’ll have a moment today where my conscience will kick in and say “okay, you can be quiet now”. One of my favorite verses on this topic is Proverbs 17:28.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
To look after orphans and widows. This one is dear to my heart. Our culture has become so complacent about the destruction of marriage and lack of commitment. Men leave their wives and children at the drop of a hat, just because they get tired of the promise that they made. Because of this, countless boys and girls are growing up without fathers. Single mothers are responsible for paying the bills, keeping the house and somehow playing both roles of nurturer and leader in the household.
There are some in the global church that are trying to change that, but in general, the average congregation seems silent on this. My dream would be to see us each come alongside these hurting “widows and orphans” and help fill the void caused by these missing fathers. One great avenue to do this is by connecting with WINGS, a local ministry devoted to helping women and children in need.