Freedom, Rights, and Responsibility

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.
1 Corinthians 6:12a (NIV)

When I was growing up there was premium placed on personal responsibility by my parents and grandparents. You took responsibility for your own needs, your own debts, your own responsibilities, and your own actions. Looking back, I believe that some of it was motivated by their spiritual principles and some of it was motivated by social pressure. No matter the motivation, there was a self-respect that simply came from doing what had to be done to make your own way and not be dependent on others.

It seems to me that the social pendulum has swung in the past fifty years. I perceive that the rugged individualism and value of personal responsibility that seemed rather pervasive in my youth has given way to a spirit of entitlement and a “take what you can get” mentality. A few weeks ago I spoke with an employer who was behind because a part of the work force on which he depended  was choosing to be unemployed as long as possible in their off season to collect as much “free money” as possible. I recall a friend who was quite capable of providing for he and his family, but chose to manage their lives to get as much welfare as possible. “The money’s just sitting there,” he said. “If I don’t take it someone else will. Might as well be me.” I’m afraid that our world has become adept at taking for ourselves while shifting the cost to others.

In today’s chapter, Paul is addressing a parallel thought process among the believers in the city of Corinth. There were those who were acting out of a claim that they had a right and freedom to act in ways that were having a negative effect on themselves and the whole of the community. Paul points out that having a right and freedom to do something does not make it beneficial for yourself or for the whole.

This morning I’m doing a little soul searching of my own. I’m asking myself a few hard questions. Where in life am I cost shifting? Where in life am I exercising rights and freedoms in ways that are ultimately not beneficial to me, my family, my fellow believers, or society as a whole? In what ways am I acting out of self-centeredness that may ultimately be detrimental to everyone else?

2 thoughts on “Freedom, Rights, and Responsibility”

  1. For the past decade or so, I have been saying: “having the right to do something does not necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do.” I like the gist of the post, Tom.

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