Slave or Heir
1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Paul makes a rather shocking comparison now, between slaves and children. It’s shocking because we rarely think of these two categories of people in the same breath. But in reality, their lives are very similar. A child has no power or control over their own lives. They are subject to the whims of their parents. A slave has no power or control over their own lives. They are subject to the whims and demands of their masters. The difference in their lives comes years down the line, when the child matures into an adult and inherits their father’s fortune. The slave remains in the same situation no matter how much time passes, under the power of their master.
Paul masterfully uses this comparison to make us aware of our status before the Lord. When Jesus died on the cross, He purchased our position as an heir of the King with His blood. Our futures are much different than that of a slave. We are heirs, and I don’t know about you, but the concept of being an heir is intriguing and full of promise.
The obvious question Paul addresses is that of position. Do we see ourselves as heirs of the Father or do we see ourselves as slaves, for if the later is true, our lives will be lived in a dark place. If we know that we are heirs, we live as such and our lives here take on an entirely different color. We live from a place of hope and peace. Paul admonishes the Galatians because they are taking actions that return them to that place of slavery. Why would anyone want that? God doesn’t want it for us, so why would we want that for ourselves? Seeking to become a part of God’s Kingdom through our own actions (such as circumcision) is foolishness. Neglecting the message we have heard walks us back to slavery. Let us not be guilty of that folly.