Have you ever been put in a situation that is beyond your control? In Matthew 6:25-30, Jesus calls us to a life of simplicity. We are called to be free in Christ. All He asks us to do is follow Him. Why do the very things that set us free hold us hostage?
Throughout the New Testament, especially in Paul’s writings, we see a recurring theme of sin being compared to chains or shackles. I never really saw the significance of this analogy until I started working at a correctional facility. Shackles, or fetters as they’re called in many Old Testament passages, refer to forged pieces of iron that were put around the feet of prisoners. They usually were connected by a short chain. Shackles were intended to immobilize a prisoner by restricting movement. It was a method used by guards to control prisoners and provide security to the community. This method of control is still in use today. Modern shackles resemble a large pair of large handcuffs that are placed on the ankles and connected by a short chain. They often are attached to a set of handcuffs that are connected to a waist chain. This restraint system is effective and tamper resistant if applied properly. Shackles are meant to be placed snuggly on the ankles. Once the prisoner begins to walk, it becomes painful as the Achilles tendon begins to flex. If the shackles are not double locked, they will tighten with each step causing the shackles’ grip to increase.
So what does this have to do with sin? Why did Paul use this term to refer to sin’s grasp on us? This choice of phrasing was not by accident.
Paul intentionally chose this illustration to help his readers see the power sin has over us and the importance of what Christ did to break the shackles of sin in our lives. From the Garden of Eden to this very day, sin has been Satan’s way to trip us up and enslave us in a way of life that is contrary to what God intended. Sin, similar to shackles, can grip our behavior and choices, limiting the direction of our lives. The more we try to fight sin in the flesh, the tighter its grip becomes. It is impossible for us to break free on our own.
Inmates get on a cycle that seems impossible to break. They come to jail for some small crime and are put in shackles. They do their time and then are released. For a moment, they are freed from their shackles. The problem is that shackles are designed to be put on and taken off, but we choose to sin, thus requiring shackles to be placed on us. At times, it seems as if the more we try not to sin, the more we do. It is a cycle. Paul said the things he wanted to do he couldn’t do, and the things that he did not want to do he found himself doing. The psalmist in Psalm 2 spoke about shackles being broken. The only way to render shackles useless is to break them. We are unable to do this on our own. We must rely on Christ to break the shackles of sin in our lives and set us free.
Following Christ should be a life of simplicity and freedom, but we have made it so complex. Pray that God will help you break the shackles in your life. My prayer is that we would be able to focus on the day at hand as we follow Christ and not miss Him in the midst of the busyness and details. He says that if we have the right relationship with Him, we will be truly free. If we walk in the truth and light, we will be free indeed. In order for this to happen, we must do what He called His disciples to do, which is simply to follow His lead. Daily consecrate your life and your choices to follow Christ on the path of the simple.