This post may be a bit uncharacteristic. I’m not a fan of lists like this because the nuances of each of our individual struggles render such oversimplifications mostly trite. That being said this topic has been nagging my conscience and it’s worth the risk to calm my heart.
Before attempting to create a possibly trite list of general things that are trying to enslave or snare you, I’d like to mention the powers that are wielded for this purpose.
First, many of these “powers” are biological or at least have some grip in our biology. That’s no surprise and really nothing new. The effects of chemicals like dopamine are well known and written about all over the internet. I’ll only add that from a theological perspective these chemicals act to maintain an animal instinct that cannot please God. Biology is the “flesh” mentioned in Galatians 5:17 that “craves what is contrary to the Spirit.”
Even fear, one of the bigger factors in our propensity to be enslaved, is tied to our biology in chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. If evil can stimulate fear within us our bodies cooperate quite efficiently in chemical subjugation. I will remind you again, our flesh “craves what is contrary to the Spirit.”
The major factor in all of this that is not directly tied to biology, at least not in any way we’ve discovered, is doubt. Doubt is the opposite of faith, and while both are partly rooted in thought processes there are really no known “doubt” chemicals. While belief (ie faith, the opposite of doubt) can trigger a chemical sense of well-being, the chemicals being stimulated (or not stimulated) are all more specialized and rather than being the source of the doubt, are just reinforcing it. In other words, the “shield of faith” from Ephesians 6 is a very tangible concept as are the “fiery darts” of the devil. When we are faithful our flesh must come into submission to that faith, but when we doubt, chemicals can wreak havoc on our flesh, much like fiery darts would.
So now that I’ve tackled the primary power to enslave us, which is doubt; doubt, that leads to fear, discontentment, and all kinds of shameless self-gratification. I will discuss some specific slave-masters for modern humans.
1. Lust – Having seen so many professed Christians fall to secret lives of sensuality in a society that makes a point to make it incredibly easy to gawk at nudity and sex without “getting caught”, it is fairly certain that for every one that gets caught there are tens if not hundreds that don’t. Yet they are enslaved. The source? I believe is doubt; here’s why.
A man who doubts is like a wave of the sea… (James 1:6), I mean, a man who doubts will compromise, especially when no one is looking. Why? Simple, because they actually don’t believe that anyone is looking. The Bible is full of this theme. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This is the reason I am so determined to put this in writing, because in every case of every one of these tragic failures the disease was doubt and yet that is almost never mentioned.
In a society that rewards Christian piety but ridicules faith, it requires no faith at all to believe that someone is looking when other humans are actually looking. Therefore, many scale the ranks of the piety scoreboard quite quickly when their only belief is that they’ll be rewarded by other people. In fact, with little to no belief that anyone is watching what they do when they are alone, they will also have no reason to discuss their own shortcomings or really be honest about their private thoughts at all. By the rules of the piety game, they will appear much “better” than one who is sincerely trying to make their thought-life and their alone-life match their professions of faith. In a society that makes a game of religion, and rewards those who by its own flawed judgement perform nobly, hypocrites and sociopaths will be the all-stars (1 Timothy 4:2). Do not be deceived, those people are enslaved. Please read 1 Timothy 4, to learn more about them. Also consider carefully what this means for The Church (all believers) in societies that do not reward their public professions, but rather persecute them. More on that in a bit.
2. Social Media – In perhaps a futile attempt to be current and relevant I want to mention social media as a slave driver. The power here is again fear. Fear of getting “left out” and fear of being perceived as “no fun” or “anti-social”. Even fear of “missing out”. There are different ways of describing these fears that sound much more convincing, like : “It’s a great way to stay connected with family.” Good luck with that. Even if your only friends are family you can be sure that the social media machine will never stop nagging you to connect with more and more. The other convincing argument for social media is: “everything in moderation”, whenever I hear that argument my first thought is I wonder how many believing wives have convinced themselves that their husbands’ use of pornography is ok because it’s in “moderation”? The thing about these slave drivers is their entire goal is to get beyond moderation. Sure, they’ll tell you that you’re free to go whenever you please, but you show me someone hooked on Facebook that really is free to go for more than a few hours at a time. They aren’t free.
3. Government – This one has only recently become so clear to me, even surreal, because it really is bizarre how this works. Secular (agnostic, faithless) thought declares that the majority of society dictates morality. It’s fascinating to me how thoroughly I had believed this nonsense. It’s impossible to reconcile this with following Jesus. Jesus teaches that morality comes from God alone and His will. Jesus also goes on to warn that morality is only found on the narrow path, and that few find that path. He outright warns that most people choose the road that leads to destruction. So the idea that a majority rules government could ever be a force for “good” is illogical. Even if we somehow got a “good king” how long could it last? Remember the lesson from Samuel, God did not want His people to need any king. Yet because of their unbelief they demanded one. After all, they could see their “king” and they couldn’t see God, so the majority were satisfied. Please consider this carefully if you are ever tempted to partner with the government to “do God’s will”. Please consider what this means for your choosing where to donate based on their “tax exempt” status. Sure, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s. Don’t doubt for a second, the Government’s intention is to become your god. Historically it has yet to ever not be the case, only now, with technology such as it is, the government is more omniscient and omnipotent than ever. Stuff right out of Revelation.
4. Food – “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…” Matthew 6:25-35. I have met a lot of “foodie” Christians. It’s trendy these days to be a connoisseur. There are shows on TV and readily available foreign cuisine that cultivates this pretentious lifestyle. A great degree of multi-cultural pride comes from the ability to operate chopsticks, to pronounce the native names of Thai dishes correctly, or even just to know which products are GMO and which are not. Perhaps this is the one area where one might concede “everything in moderation” however, by referring to oneself as a “foodie” I would suggest some folks are advertising something quite beyond moderation. Take a read of Matthew 15:11, and consider this carefully. If some people put half the care into the words they say as they do the food they eat, wouldn’t God be much more pleased?
5. Gossip – I am consistently struck by the popularity of slanderous gossip among Christians. It’s almost like some are trying to get back all of the “fun” they lose out on by not being a philanderer or brawler by tearing apart people’s reputations for fun. I’m talking about men and women here, but I’ve really seen it from men, who claim to be “offering advice” or “just wanting to caution” … as they attempt to generate contempt for their enemies as a means to elevate themselves. I have to again go back to #1 above and say that this is more “doubt” talking. Someone who honestly believes that their motives and thoughts are not being judged because they actually don’t believe in God. After all, if it weren’t for all the doubt, wouldn’t they realize that God doesn’t need their intrigues to bring about His will for them? Unfortunately, slanderous gossips aren’t often concerned about God’s will for them, they are usually concerned about their own will being done. Ephesians 5, another great section to leave my ramblings to read, in verse 11, it warns us to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness”. Godly people are leaving corrupt institutional churches in droves because of these dynamics. When asked their “religious affiliation” they are putting “none” because they do not want to be associated with the gossip machines that are our polluted and politicized institutions. I’ve yet to spend more than a few weeks in any fellowship that I do not end up offending someone by rejecting their “warnings” about someone or another. Not long after, I become the one they’re gossiping about. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be stopped by faith. Faith that God judges hearts and not mere appearances and has a much better warning system (the Holy Spirit) than your grapevine.
6. Entertainment – Let me take a second here to recommend a great movie. No joke, this movie I believe is edifying and worth while. It’s called “Brother White” (2012), and actually demonstrates – in the Christian upper-b++-film sort of slightly cheesy way – some of the principles I’m touching on here. Or maybe “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” (2008)… Again, slightly cheesy, but again a common theme. Rather than tear low people down further, how about doing what Jesus said? How about praying for those who persecute us?
It may sound a bit hypocritical, but my plugs above are sincere because entertainment is very clearly an “in moderation” sort of thing. We know that humans have enjoyed entertainment for as long as we have history. Even David “danced” and played instruments… Yet entertainment can also entice and enslave us.
Larry Norman wrote a song called: “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music” in response to Elvis Presley after recognizing black Church cultural influence in Elvis’ music. White Christian church leaders segregated and unaware of what Jesus was doing decided a lot of things about entertainment without inspiration. In the process losing a lot of what is edifying and enlightening.
That all being said, Larry Norman is right, if we hope to avoid the dark side of entertainment we have to develop an affinity for cheesy b++ quality. The devil may not have all “the good music” or movies or books, but he does have most of them because he has most of the people.
We’ve been enjoying “Pure Flix” as a family and can recommend it for movies like we mentioned above. Though unfortunately, the selection is sparse.
7. Technology – This may be a bit more of a general category, but I want to point out that technology does go beyond social media and internet pornography. The Amish believers have recognized that really any human technological advancement can be a threat to our contentment. Anything that speeds things up to a point that we lose something else in the process. For instance, take a simple Google Search. We used to use encyclopedias which included long and well researched descriptions of topics. Now we have Google and get all that and dozens or even hundreds of opinions on just about anything all at once. It’s like having a supercomputer for a brain. Unfortunately, it degrades the age old art of contemplation as we fall almost arbitrarily through the web (pun intended) of random thoughts, politically motivated “science” and sometimes downright deceptive web pages. Don’t underestimate the wisdom of the Amish. We may find that mental health is severely threatened by these seemingly good ideas of human ingenuity. I’m not sure I need to remove the rubber tires from my tractor to avoid that pitfall, but I do respect their reasoning. When work moves slowly, and requires many hands to make it light, then work becomes fellowship to be enjoyed the same as any other aspect of life. I’ve seen this in rural Himalyan villages, and it’s something that Amish people deliberately value and maintain. Not because of ignorance, but because of wisdom that warns them not to become enslaved to convenience.
8. Discontentment – Yoda warns: “The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” Yet before we ever get to where we’re afraid to lose something we’re striving to get that thing in the first place. A terrible cycle discontentment is. (Great, now I’m writing like Yoda). It’s true, we strive and strive for a new car, only to then obsess about it getting scratched. How enslaving. Discontentment is a topic seldom discussed in churches because we live in such a materialistic culture. People in America are far too rich to tolerate advice against luxury, so our institutions fire or squelch anyone that would teach such things and promote the likes of Joel Osteen. The prosperity gospel preacher that attempts to turn spiritual hunger into a form of capitalism. As heretical and Antichrist as his teachings are, they work in America because we are gluttonous and always have an appetite for more. People enslaved by materialism will be enslaved to voices and teachings like Osteen’s as is demonstrated by his loyal following. Osteen offers a circular reasoning answer to faith and doubt. He contends that our prosperity demonstrates blessing which proves our faith. If that were true then every rich man would be faithful and the poor would be faithless. Consider this, Jesus was poor, and He said that it’s very difficult for a rich man to go to heaven. Osteen on the other hand…??? Well, like I said, Antichrist.
9. Animals – This is another topic that I have not seen mentioned very often, probably because it will be unpopular, but animals are NOT people. No matter how cute your snickerkapoodle can be decorated remember that dolls and idols can be decorated too. In fact, many animistic religions will decorate trees, and even rocks. This is not following Jesus. Not once did Jesus condemn the slaughter of animals for food or promote elevating animals to “child” status. In the entire Bible a handful of verses speak to the “stewardship” of animals but none to the humanization of them. Even when Balaam’s donkey spoke, the context was a warning from God, not evidence of the donkey’s own intelligence.
The idea that animals have “rights” is animistic and secular and has very little place in a Christian worldview. The enslaving quality of elevating animals to sentience – which has already happened in our society – is that people then spend efforts that would better be spent in defense of the rights of the unborn humans, demonizing anyone that would leave their dog outside in the snow. Consider the antichristianity of this! Kill unborn babies, but never-ever let an animal sleep outside? It’s madness that can only be inspired by the father of lies himself. Again, doubt is the root of this. For those that do not believe God, many will fill the hole left with morality based on “cuteness” or “cuddliness”. The extreme of this being animistic Buddhism in which even insects and plants are sentient. As opposed to the Biblical mandate that “you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31)
Such godlessness (doubt) is to be expected from secular humanism and man-made religion, but not from Christians. “His eye is on the sparrow”, so pointlessly cruel treatment of animals doesn’t honor God any more than pointless destruction of usable land. Yet the modern philosophy that animals have rights, go to heaven, and all that is simply not Biblical. In all of the Biblical imagery of animals in heaven – for instance Jesus riding a white horse – even when taken literally the horse is no different than an inanimate vehicle. Jesus is also pictured as having a sword coming from his mouth. Does that prove that swords are sentient too, do they “die and go to heaven”?
At this point I’m sure I’ve angered someone that claims to believe God but who is also certain that their labrodroople has contemplated whether a tree falling in the forest makes sound when no one is around, all while using its tongue as toilet tissue. Rather than storming off in a fit I welcome you to cite some scripture that explains why kitty comfort is as worthy a cause as protecting unborn children, or feeding the ones who have been born? If you’re a nonbeliever that stumbled on this site, of course you think that, because you don’t believe God is real, and this isn’t written to you. Carry on.
10. Doing good things – Oh so much can be said here. Everyone wants to keep score. How much I did today compared to how much you did today. Those especially enamored with seeming good are experts at this because their thought-life can be as vile as any and they can still play the “doing good things” game. Those whose agnosticism leads them to every-so-often worry that God is watching, they’ll go through cycles of trying to offer one good thing for every bad thing they are trying to balance out of the equation. What a blatant example of slavery and doubt. If we would only believe God we’d know He’s watching all of the time and sees everything. We wouldn’t care if anyone knew how great we are because we already know He does and when we know that then what else matters? Yet again, enslaved.
In conclusion –
All of the above point to doubt. Doubt is the disease that plagues all of mankind. Unbelief or sporadic belief leads to godless and sporadic behavior. That cycle advances on more than just the 10 fronts listed above, but a continuous and infinite spectrum of fronts. Of different combinations of all of the above and then some. Eating away at our resolve and at budding faith until there is none of either, only slavery. Without faith, we are all doomed to slavery, not because “God torments us” but because we choose it. I’ve said this before and still believe it. The pride of Lucifer is the root of all evil, it’s that same pride that leads to faithlessness and it’s that faithlessness that leads to all of the above, and then some.