Daily Archives: January 12, 2010

The Vice Of Freedom

“It’s a free country!”

If you’re a parent of an adolescent child, you’ve probably heard that excuse plenty of times. In our house, our daughters usually offer it when we tell them to clean their room, practice their cello or voice, or join us on a family outing.

While we do live in a free country, it doesn’t mean that my children are free to live as they please.  What would my daughters be like if my wife and I failed to intervene into their everyday lives?

They might look like a character in today’s reading. He’s the poster child of the vice of freedom.


Genesis 26:17-27:46
Matthew 9:1-17
Psalm 10:16-18
Proverbs 3:9-10

Genesis 26:17-33. The wells in dispute were dug by Isaac’s father Abraham, which meant they rightfully belonged to him (Genesis 26:18). Commentator’s look at Isaac’s response as an example of his timidity.

Genesis 27. More on this in THE WORD MADE FRESH.

Matthew 9:3. Jesus was accused of blasphemy because the religious leaders taught that only God can forgive sins (technically, this is true). By absolving the paralytic man of his sins, Jesus implied that he was God (which is also true).

Matthew 9:9. Matthew (the writer of the Gospel of Matthew) is telling his own story here.

Matthew 9:10-11. What a great example Jesus gave us. He hung out with tax collectors and “sinners.” The New Bible Commentary explains, “Tax collectors were not only notorious for exploitation but also religiously and politically ostracized as collaborators with the pagan Roman government. For a pious Jew to eat with them was therefore unthinkable.” The irony, of course, is that the Pharisees failed to see that they were sinners, too.


Genesis 27 is a very unsettling chapter, spurring countless questions inside me. Did God approve of—even sanction—Jacob’s actions? Why would God bless Jacob’s deception? What was wrong with Esau? Here’s what the passage speaks to me:

At the end of chapter 26, we read that Esau married two wives, both of whom were Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35). Most striking of all is the comment we read about the two wives: “They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” How were they a source of grief? We don’t know.

But consider this: Abraham was adamant that Isaac marry a girl from within their extended family, and NOT a Canaanite girl. He even sent a servant to find Isaac a wife. So what did Isaac do to ensure his sons avoid marrying a Canaanite woman? Nothing. As I mentioned in today’s INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS, Isaac was, indeed, a weak, passive man.

The Word Biblical Commentary offers this observation: “Once we realize that neither Esau nor Isaac care about Abraham’s principle of not marrying Canaanites, we cannot entirely condemn the way Jacob and Rebekah achieve their goals. Esau’s indifference to the law’s demands, which Abraham held so dear, suggests that perhaps he does not deserve to inherit Abraham’s blessing.”

Had Esau continued Abraham’s “firstborn” lineage, God’s plans could have been thwarted. Think back: Esau sold his birthright for a pot of stew! That’s why Scripture refers to Esau with such contempt (Malachi 1:2-3, Hebrews 12:16).

Isaac was too lazy, timid, and passive to live proactively. Instead, he approached his daily life with a laissez-faire mentality. Laissez-faire means “Noninterference in the affairs of others.”

How does this speak to me? While I don’t believe God wants me to control my kids, I see the shortcomings of laissez-faire parenting. Just look at Esau’s life. Esau missed out on God’s blessing, in part because Isaac failed to proactively help his children follow God. How often do we hear parents say to their children:

  • “I don’t care what you decide—as long as you’re happy”
  • “I want my children to decide what they believe”
  • “My kids will figure it out on their own”

Our children need proactive parenting.

This also applies to how I live my life. Laissez-faire living lulls me to sleep and allows the surrounding (Hittite?) culture to squeeze me into its mold. A few days ago, we read that Jesus wasn’t afraid of bucking the conventional norms of his day. In the same way, I cannot allow culture or people’s opinions of me to dictate my life.

Godly parenting doesn’t just happen. A godly life doesn’t just happen.

Be like Abraham…not Isaac. It’s a choice of being passive or passive.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Who do you identify with most in Genesis 27—Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, or Jacob? Why?
  3. In what ways do you approach your life with a laissez-faire mentality? What causes this and what would help you correct it?
  4. Why do you think Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners? Who are the tax collectors and sinners Jesus might be calling you to hang out with?

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