The Slavery of Plenty
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Paul’s insinuation that we are slaves to forces outside ourselves is met with resistance by modern readers. We like to think of ourselves as independent beings in control of our own destinies.
We may acknowledge that those who live in countries around the world with oppressive political systems are in a form of bondage, as are those trapped by addictions to drugs or alcohol. But many who live comfortably, with good jobs, happy families and spacious homes, are reluctant to identify with the slave metaphor Paul uses to describe our fallen state.
However, although we may not recognize it, we are far too easily enslaved by our possessions, our comfortable way of life, or our status and authority.
Christians can find it difficult to resist the temptation to return to our old selfish ways. Paul is concerned for the Galatians because they “are turning back to those weak and miserable forces” (v. 9).
In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther acknowledges this difficulty, referring to our old nature as slaves to the Law.
If it thrusts its nose into the business of justification we must talk harshly to the Law to keep it in its place. The conscience ought not to be on speaking terms with the Law. The conscience ought to know only Christ. To say this is easy, but in times of trial, when the conscience writhes in the presence of God, it is not so easy to do.
The Holy Spirit living in us reminds us that we are daughters and sons of God through the sacrifice of Christ, who was sent by God to set us free. We are no longer slaves to our selfish nature or to the cultural forces of materialism and security that seek to draw our attention away from God. Luther encourages us,
If we could be fully persuaded that we are in the good grace of God, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we are the beloved children of God, we would be ever so happy and grateful to God.
As we begin to grasp the depth of what God has done for us through Christ, we find ourselves on the road to freedom, discovering our true satisfaction in God alone.
Originally published at theparkforum.org.