I have had the privilege of getting to go on a couple of mission trips to Africa. Whenever I get back to America after one of these trips, people always have a lot of questions. Friends and family want to understand what it is like to travel to places where the normal conveniences that we are so accustomed to in America are simply not available. I think the natural assumption for a person who has not experienced one of these trips is that travelling to a place in severe poverty is an extremely difficult and challenging grind. While there are some challenges, the truth is that these trips are just the opposite. They are absolutely liberating.
Anyone who has taken a trip to a severely impoverished country likely understands what I mean. Often, we feel like we are going in there to save people by providing them with things like food and water, but we end being the ones blessed by the very people we went there to “rescue”. It is hard to explain how much it changes you when you meet a group of people who have almost nothing of financial value, and those people are full of more joy, love and gratitude than you have ever felt in your whole life. It is hard to explain what it is like to meet people who have a family of 4 living in a home as small as an average kitchen in America, and they are loaning out the limited space they have every day to widows who need a place to sew in order to make money for their families.
The truth is that while a lot of my friends in these poorer countries would prefer to have more money, more food, and more conveniences for themselves and their loved ones, they also have a freedom that is much more difficult for people who are rich to experience. In a society that has everything, it is easy to assume that are money and possessions are what make us free. Naturally, it makes sense. Having more money creates more options. It gives us more control of our own circumstances. However, what we fail to realize is that we can actually become bound by the very things that we think are bringing us freedom.
In Mark chapter 10, Jesus states that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” In order to enter the Kingdom of heaven we have to let go of ourselves and completely submit to Christ. It is a lot easier to let go of things that we do not already have. The more that we have, the easier it is to cling to those things, and the harder it is to truly let go.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes freedom as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. Wealth has more of a propensity to create bondage than freedom. Having a bunch of stuff simply creates a necessity to manage it. That very stuff that we try so hard to manage then coerces us to pursue our own comforts rather than God’s will, and it constrains us from freely walking in obedience to Christ. In essence, wealth can keep us from being who we were truly meant to be. On the contrary, when our freedom is found in Christ, and not in our possessions and worldly comforts, we are no longer constrained and tied down. We no longer spend our time and energy trying to maintain our worldly possessions, but in pursuing Him.
When our identity and purpose are found in Christ and what He did for us, then, and only then, can we be truly free. When Christ is the source of our freedom, we no longer have a necessity to maintain our worldly riches, we are no longer coerced and enticed away from our true selves to pursue the things of the world, and are no longer constrained by what other people think and say about us. The blood of Jesus Christ set us free to be who we were created to be. It sets us free to actively love people without constraints or conditions. True freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want. True freedom is to be set free from others through the blood of Jesus Christ so that we can run in outrageous love for God and for others without the fear of having anything to lose. True freedom is freedom from ourselves.