Before man are life and death, ....whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Free will. It’s God’s greatest gift to us, and it’s also our riskiest characteris-tic. Free will has enabled us to decide for ourselves what kind of people we will be. It has enabled us to create music and art, to build cities and roads, to marry and have children. It has also enabled us to destroy instead of create, to hurt and betray instead of heal and build up. Most important, it’s through our free will that we decide whether to follow Jesus or our own thoughts and desires.
Sirach seems keenly aware of how much of a two-edged sword our free will can be. Each of us, he says, is free to choose between “fire and water,....life and death, good and evil” (Sirach 15:16-17)
Of course, our heavenly Father longs for us to choose life in him, but he will never force himself on us. He is not like the petty gods dreamed up by the pagans, who use threats and manipulation to keep their people in line.
God also knows that free will has consequences. And so Sirach teaches, “Whichever he chooses shall be given him” (Sirach 15:17). While God honors our choices, he also respects the results those choices bring.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a real-life illustration: “Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). If you choose to nurture anger, resentment, and condemnation, don’t be surprised if other people begin treating you in the same way. But if you build an environment of trust and respect, that’s what you will receive.
So choose life today. Use this awesome gift of your free will to choose gentleness, patience, and all the other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Above all, choose Jesus. Welcome him into your life, and let his love soften your heart. It’s the best choice you could ever make.
“Jesus, help me to choose you in every situation today.”
(February 20/20 Edition/The Word Among Us)