We recently finished two weeks of sermons on spiritual liberties (Giving Up Your Freedom Part I and Part II). I focused on the command to lay down liberties when they might offend or stumble our brothers or sisters in Christ, but one of the areas I didn’t discuss is the relationship between spiritual liberties and stewardship of our time. Often spiritual liberties relate to activities we might engage in and Paul had great thoughts on this topic…
- 1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
- 1 Corinthians 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
We can take away some important points from these verses…
First, the words “all things are lawful for me.” While we don’t take the word “all” as literally as it sounds (Paul took for granted his readers would know it’s not lawful to engage in sin), he clearly saw plenty of activities or choices as permissible or non-sinful.
Second, Paul was clear that while these activities aren’t necessarily harmful or detrimental, they also aren’t beneficial or “helpful”; they don’t profit or “edify” us. This alone can be taken as a warning regarding how easy it is to waste our time on behaviors or activities that have no eternal or spiritual value. I’ll be the first to say we can have hobbies and engage in recreational activities outside of praying and reading our Bibles with every spare second; personally I enjoy chess, Scrabble and exercise. Jesus Himself attended weddings (John 2:1-12), banquets (Luke 5:29) and even said He “came eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34) referring to the social and recreational life He lived. There has to be a balance though where too much time isn’t spent on secular, earthly pursuits.
Third, Paul pointed out that it’s possible for spiritual liberties to become harmful when they start to control us; when we’re “brought under [their] power.” He’s referring to activities becoming addictions or obsessions. This is when our priorities are out of order; our unspiritual pursuits have become more important than areas that should be of greatest importance: the Lord, His Word, our spouses, children, church families, etc. When you talk to people struggling with this they might respond with, “I have the liberty in Christ to do this!” but they don’t have the liberty to engage in it that much; not to the exclusion of the more important relationships and responsibilities God wants us focused on.
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” – C.T. Studd