We haven’t always lived with questions about excess, either as individuals or as a society. In the past we may have asked, “How can I obtain enough to survive?” Now “How much is too much?” is a needed question. Our necessary self-regulating feels unnatural. We instinctively squint and stiffen against anything or anyone that asks us to recognize our rights and simultaneously set them aside for the sake of others. Something within each of us says, “If I want to have ______, I can have that,” or “If I want to do _______, I can do it.” And there’s truth there: Of course, I can. Of course, I can.
This proverb, however, tells us that focusing only on ourselves leaves us unprotected, vulnerable. True strength comes in the paradox of giving our lives away for others. Limits protect us from making idols of ourselves. Living with God is not about “what I can do” or “what I want,” but about living for one another, as Jesus models. Or as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (10:23).
Have we examined the ways in which our personal freedoms limit or enhance the lives of others? Mounted on the outer wall of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa is this quote from Nelson Mandela: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” May God lead us in self-regulating; may God limit us in order to strengthen the community all around us.
What limits do you set for yourself? Whom do those limits benefit?
God, please show me where I am living only for myself. Forgive me and lead me into the life of your Reign that benefits all. Amen.