A true test of sound biblical understanding and practice of righteousness depends on whether we are enslaved by righteousness or servants to righteousness.
What does it mean to be enslaved by righteousness and what are the symptoms?
To be enslaved by righteousness is to make one’s perceived good conducts (works of righteousness) God. That is, the good conducts as listed in the bible or acceptable ethos within one’s immediate or remote cultural community. The motivation and goal becomes attaining the higher levels of good conduct which in turn becomes the source of happiness and yardstick for obtaining all good things of the present life and entering the life to come. For example, the laws God gave to Israel to help bring them to seek Him became God to them. They elevated His laws above Him and became enslaved by their good deeds. Matthew 12:10-12, Luke 14:2-6.
Symptoms of this doctrinal ailment
Believing righteousness comes by righteous deeds and not the opposite
Believing Salvation is by the works of righteous deeds and not the reverse
Immense fasting not as worship but as a means of overcoming and attaining higher levels of righteousness
Blaming others or things as reasons for looking away, unbelief or sinning
Judging oneself, others and things on the surface or only after the manner of the flesh as opposed to the Spirit
Exploring every available religion peradventure they may give clues for attaining the standard in the area one is falling short
Falling into sin leads to guilt, withdrawal from the bible and fellowship, loss of joy, depression and anger against whoever is assumed to have set the standard so high, be it God or man
The above symptoms are clear and an undeniable alarm that a person or a people are taken captive or enslaved by righteous deeds. That being the case, the deeds, are now forcing the adherers to serve them. The good deeds become a person who punishes the adherers that deviate with guilt, shame and hiding. The deeds or circumstances become their masters or god. The force or threat element is remarkable.
The presence of one or all of the above symptoms in our lives shows we lack sound understanding of the Christian faith, we’re yet to become Christian or we have been deceived or derailed. If this is the case with anyone or a group of people, it is serious and needs immediate redress.
Servants to Righteousness
The remedy to the lethal problem of being enslaved by righteousness is, to be servant(s) to Righteousness. The first important thing to mention is this; there is no force or subtle threat involved at all. In this case, the individual or group of people chooses to be a servant(s) to Righteousness. The choice to be a servant(s) to Righteousness gives good conducts or righteous deeds as part of Its rewards. This kind of relationship between the Master (Righteousness One) and the servant(s) has room to quickly develop into friendship John 15:15. The mutuality moves on guaranteeing even joint inheritance of the Master’s riches. Through this willingly loving relationship, the Master exhorts, corrects, admonishes and trains the servants in righteousness. He wants the servant(s) to be as Him by helping them. The Master expresses His will to the servant(s) without fear that they will reject Him. Also, the servant(s) express their needs, wants, feelings, weaknesses and fears to the Master without fear of rejection. They know their Master will help them overcome as He overcame. Therefore, they give themselves wholly to the Master’s course as soldiers even willing to die for Him as He died for them.
He helps the servant(s) or friend(s) by living in them and through them. This is a special kind of Master and servant(s) relationship. The Servant(s) lives in the same house as their Master not in servants’ quarters. The servant(s) are not in the field slaving out for the Master rather, He is with them all the way through. He even appoints for them the Teacher who teaches them directly and also, teaches them through each of them that they might reach competence in their assigned duties to worship God in spirit and truth as their Master did.
The greatest sign that this relationship is not forced lays in the possibility of the servant(s) or friend(s) to walk away or look away from the Master if they so choose without the Master putting guilt and depression on them. When they look away, obviously they start sinking into the miry clay. The memory of the loving relationship the friend(s) or servant(s) have had with their Master is what they miss so much if they ever walk away. His good deed in them, through them and most of all the feeling of being lonely without His companionship is what persuades them to look again to their Master the Righteous One.
Falling short of good deeds or into sin becomes a reminder to the servant(s) or friend(s) that they are looking away from the Master who is ever standing by and pleading to them to look to Him. His presence carries no condemnation, guilt or dejection nor does it chase away. However, despite His inviting and comforting presence, He empowering them and the privilege to look at Him again, they still retain the power to persistently look away from Him and give their attention to another who is competing with Him for their worship and service.
Who are those in competition with the Righteous One
It is the devil on one side and the self on the other side. Satan and self righteousness enslave—ever give them room and they seize you beyond your imagination. You suddenly will be in need to be rescued. Little wonder the human race is in need of deliverance from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light or from bondage to freedom.
We as the human race are individually being persuaded not forced by God to look at Christ Jesus His beloved Son. It is an invitation to be His servants, friends, brothers and sons—joint heirs! We have the choice to look or accept Christ and live in freedom now and for all eternity, or remain with Satan and self righteousness and live enslaved now and for all eternity. The Righteous One (Christ) gives humanity and His people the opportunity to choose. This open choice is what the devil and self never gives because they are tyrants.
Right from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God’s call to man has been the same and it has never changed. It’s not “keep my laws”—it is, look to Me! Don’t look away!
Deuteronomy 30:19 captures God’s call to man, ‘Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh that you choose life, so that you and your descendants might live’!
Micah 6:8 echoes the same call, ‘ No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’.
To walk with Him is all God requires from man. It gives humility, right conduct and love for mercy Jude 1:21.
God did not give Adam and Eve laws to keep, He gave them a law which is—look to Me or walk with Me. The alternative was to look away or walk away. They looked away and sank. Peter looked away from Christ, and sinking, he quickly looked to Him again with shouting. Judas looked away from Christ and didn’t care to look at Him again much less shout out to Him. He beckoned on Rehab, she looked, and therefore, her name continues to surface in the list of the godly. Saul looked at Him and became Paul, an envy of all who pursue the grace of God. Unfortunately, King Agrippa refused to look at Him Acts 26:28-29NKJV. No one who looks to the eternal Father will be put to shame.
Even Jesus as a man, survived by looking unto His Father who has appointed that the human race look unto—Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God Hebrews 12:2, 2 Corinthians 4:6, 3:18. From His glory in us His brothers, servants, friends or branches proceeds the fruit of the Spirit (righteous deeds).