Who or what controls your life? Who is our master?
Before answering the question, consider a couple of Bible passages.
First: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16; ESV)”
And then: “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other. (1 Corinthians 6:12-13; ESV)”
Obviously, when the apostle Paul is talking with the Corinthians about “all things are lawful,” he is not meaning sinful things; for sin is, by definition, unlawful (cf. 1 John 3:4) and the Bible is pretty clear that sin is a real and dangerous thing. Rather, Paul is talking about such things as are permissible and, in and of themselves, harmless.
People let all sorts of things dominate their lives. Sometimes those things are inherently wrong in and of themselves: things such as narcotics, immorality, lust, hatred, and the like. Other times they are things which are “lawful,” but which we have made the unhelpful through our own thoughts and actions.
Take coffee for instance.
There is nothing inherently wrong with coffee as a beverage. It has a mild stimulating effect, but so does sugar. The body needs energy, and we provide it in various ways as we have need.
But what of those people who say, quite sincerely, that they won’t be held accountable for their actions or words until they get their first cup of coffee in the morning? Or their first three or four? Are they not confessing that they have allowed the beverage to become the master of their behavior? The morning cup has gone from being helpful to being a dominating influence over their life? Anger, bitterness, resentment and a general bad attitude, all of which are wrong (cf. Galatians 5:20), are excused because of the lack of a physical substance.
Do we think that we are going to stand before God on the last day and when He asks why we were so angry every morning, exhibiting selfish and unloving behavior, our lack of coffee is going to be a legitimate excuse?
Money is another good example.
God never condemns people for having money. But He does warn them against the love of money. He pointedly tells us that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, causing some to wander from their faith, and bring great sorrow on themselves (cf. Galatians 6:10) It is not surprising that when Jesus warned His listeners that they couldn’t serve two masters, it was money that He specifically warned against. (cf. Matthew 6:24)
Money is a useful servant, but a terrible master.
Still others try to be their own master. Too often, this just means that we make pride our master, and we serve the interest of said pride. Again, the Bible warns us against pride as a master, telling us that it leads to all manners of strife and sin (cf. James 3:14-16), but also reminding us that in serving pride, we make ourselves an enemy of God. (cf. James 4:4-6)
God has given us freewill, but He has also taught us that we are going to serve someone or something in this life. If we allow ourselves to be the servants and slaves of sin and self, it’s going to end badly for us, and we are going to be unhappy most of the time. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to serve God, things will go better throughout life, and in the end, it will turn out the way it was supposed to.
This is what we were created for: to fear God and to keep His commandments (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13). When we allow other things, besides God, to have dominion over us, our life is already off the rails and we have lost a proper focus.
As we reflect on our lives, we need to be quite honest about who, or what, we have allowed to have dominion over ourselves, and if it is not God, then to make a necessary and desirable change.
If you would like to learn more about how to serve God, the church of Christ invites you to come worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any question you would like answered or addressed, please share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.