Of Rights and Obligations
As a Christian, which comes first, my rights or my obligations?
In almost all democratic nations, within their respective constitutions there contains a clause, almost always within the first paragraph, which reads something as follows, “We are a Nation under God”. The constitution will then list the “Rights” of citizens within that nation, whether it be in the constitution itself or a Declaration of Rights and Freedoms, as in Canada or a Bill of Rights, as in the USA. Every country pre-ambles these rights as “Inalienable and/or God Given”. I have yet to find a democratic country which has a “Bill of Obligations”. I have yet to find a list of “Rights” in the Bible even though biblically we are given many obligations, particularly once we become “a people of God”.
Even the greatest liberty man can receive, salvation, is not a right but, a gift of God. We are not born with it, just the opposite, we are born into sin, into captivity, into death. There is no way we can even earn it.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–”
There seems an audacity among many a Christian, even politicians that they will defend the rights of the voters even to quoting scripture out of context to do so. One oft times quoted verse used in a social services context is 2 Thessalonians 3:10;
“….this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
There is no defense of a person’s rights in Paul’s message, just the opposite. One must first read the preceding chapters to understand the verse.
2 Thessalonians 1
3 “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;”
11 “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:”
2 Thessalonians 2
3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”
10 “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:”
The chapters can be summed up in these verses:
“your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth”
“the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power”
“because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
“God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”
Is not Paul’s letter, 2 Thessalonians, basically an testament on Jesus teaching as given in Matthew 25: 34-40 KJV
“34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
James 2:14 KJV
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”
Just as you did unto others, you did it to me.
This is the Christian’s obligation of which he/she will do, not under compulsion of the law, but willingly as a work of faith in love of the truth as given to us in Christ that the Father be glorified.
Perhaps the closest the Bible comes to expressing a persons rights is in Jeremiah 22: 13-16 and Proverbs 31:8-9 where it is basically stating that a legitimate people/government will uphold the rights of the poor and vulnerable.
All Christians, all persons, should hold to be true that human dignity can only be protected and a prosperous, healthy community be achieved if others rights are protected and our individual, personal responsibilities are met.
Of our obligations we are given:
Leviticus 25:35 KJV
“And if your brother becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you; then you shall help him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with you.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV
8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Isaiah 1:17 NIV
“learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 KJV
“6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”
The main work of the Church, the reason for the Church, is to glorify God by doing the works of Christ who came to comfort the poor and the meek, deliver the underprivileged from their plight, show mercy to the persecuted and be a light to God’s salvation.