“From the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.” (Nehemiah 5:14-15)
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16)
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Today Americans celebrate our national Independence Day. But there is an even more important liberty that we should celebrate. Christian liberty is a principle that all believers should understand, embrace, and live, however imperfectly in our sanctification. Sinclair Ferguson, in an article titled “4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty” wrote, “Christian liberty requires grasping the principle that will produce this true biblical balance: ‘We … ought … not to please ourselves…. For even Christ did not please himself’ (Rom. 15:1-3)…True Christian liberty, unlike the various “freedom” or “liberation” movements of the secular world, is not a matter of demanding the ‘rights’ we have…The Christian realizes that before God he or she possesses no “rights” by nature. In our sinfulness, we have forfeited all of our ‘rights.’ Only when we recognize that we do not deserve our “rights” can we properly exercise them as privileges. Sensitivity to others in the church, especially weaker others, depends on this sense of our own unworthiness.” *
Now, when we read the passage from Nehemiah, we may be struck with the realization that as the Governor of Jerusalem he embraced and lived out Christian liberty, not wanting to offend God by oppressing the poor, even if it meant using what was ‘rightfully’ his. If I work and earn an income based on the number of hours I have worked, the contract I have negotiated, or the sales I have completed, do I not have a right to use that money as I wish? Christian liberty says that we care more about the good of others than about our rights. The Christian who practices godly stewardship seeks to help those in need even at the cost of giving up something for him or herself. We love others as we want to be loved. This is the opposite of living for ourselves, justifying how we spend our money in the interests of our worldly desires.
Generosity of spirit moves us to be generous with our possessions. The Lord is generous with his grace, mercy, protection, and help and so we reflect his love by giving freely to others, rather than hoarding and protecting our own interests.
How will you celebrate your Christian liberty today? He gave up his very life that we would have the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12). What are you willing to give up?