We hear it all the time, “I have my rights!” or “You need to stand up for your rights.” Or perhaps that most famous proclamation about men’s rights in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Time and space would be exhausted  here if one were to try to list all the legal rhetoric out there expounding on “rights” in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and all the various definitions in Bouvier’s,  Black’s or Dean’s law dictionaries. It should be evident to every American that the idea of men’s rights (especially since the civil rights movement) is nowadays held to be an undisputable fact. But I would boldly say that the concept of “rights” is one that is rarely properly understood, even by Christians.

In the very beginning when God created man, we are first told how He placed him “into the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” It is after the defining of man’s responsibility that God in the form of a “commandment” explained the limits of man’s right to eat of every tree in the garden . . . as He forbade eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil –

And the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree in the garden, but you shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

So which came first, the right to eat or the responsibility to work and keep the garden? Clearly chronologically God gave man the responsibility to work first. Now I don’t know what was all entailed in working and keeping the Garden of Eden , but certainly if Adam didn’t keep the garden, then logic seems to dictate that the consequences would eventually be similar to that for any of us who had a garden and didn’t keep it. Of course, with the absence of weeds and thistles at the time, I am inclined to think it had to be a delight for Adam to do the will of God and tend the garden, as well as enjoying his right to the fruit thereof.

We see the same model of responsibilities first, rights second, in Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians that if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat. Likewise this principle is unmistakable in God’s law forbidding the muzzling of the mouths of the oxen that tread corn that they may eat thereof, similar to the assertion “the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel” should be appropriately provided for thereby. All these serving to make it evident that there is a law of blessing which is simply this, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.”

Now the reason I have touched on this is simply to show that “rights” are the fruits, or direct benefits of responsibilities. For that reason, there can be no moral assertion of rights if there is no assignment and acceptance of responsibility. Possibly the greatest witness in scripture is the Lord’s words given to the Apostle John recorded in Revelation.

 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

This passage of scripture found near the end of the Bible in Revelation, coupled with the witness of Adam’s responsibility in the beginning of scripture, serve as bookends to the witnesses to all the Law and Prophets. Together with the exhortation of the Apostles, it can be soundly taught that God has indeed given good gifts unto men; however they can only rightfully be enjoyed by those who have been responsive to the will of their Creator. Otherwise, to partake of God’s gifts and ignore the terms of responsibility, only makes one an embezzler against his Creator and/or a thief against his neighbor.

Some may argue that the 10th commandment gives witness to the “rights” of men in that another man is not to covet another man’s wife, home or possessions. Yet I would reply no, it does not witness the “rights” of men, rather the responsibility of men not to covet what God has given to another . . . to which we would do well to remember the words of Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Furthermore, it should go without need of clarification the error of coveting another’s ill-gotten gain.

Perhaps the greatest reason why rights are to be recognized as blessings intended for those responsive to God’s will is simply the reality of hell. For if we truly have the right to pursue happiness, yet can foresee how picking up a cross and denying ourselves, or forsaking everything in order to give it to the poor so we can follow Christ will certainly bring us unwanted sorrow, heartache, grief, persecution and tribulation, then by all means we should have the right not to. Which of course would mean if we truly had the right not to, then hell would be unjust because it is an unjustifiable penalty against those who were simply exercising their rights.

This illusion of “rights” apart from the mandate of fulfilling the responsibilities God has assigned unto all has become a gigantic source of contention, not only between men, but with man and God too. Most of the time this illusion that we need to stand up for our rights is nothing more than the embracement of a lie propagated by Lucifer; who himself cast off his own God given responsibilities that afforded him with unique blessings from God. Corrupting the simple wisdom in the law of blessing, he reasoned that he was entitled to self-government and should be free to determine for himself what was good or evil from his own perspective, as well as to take, use, consume or go wherever he wants. Consequently, such is how he reasoned it unto Adam and Eve, convincing them as well to embrace these lies.

Since the fall of Adam these lies have been repeatedly told to us; how we deserve a break today or we should be able to have it our way, for if it feels good do it . . . after all we are worth it? This illusion of rights has been repackaged and resold over and over again only to keep men in conflict with each other and their Creator. Nevertheless, in truth God has given men rights, but rights are His to give and not men’s to claim. Rights are the blessings God bestows upon those who have embraced their responsibilities and so labored and walked accordingly.

Sisters and brothers, to whom much is given, much is required. So please stop and take inventory of all that God has given you and ask yourself, what do you have that does not belong ultimately to God? Which one of us can honestly claim we have a right to anything? Life truly is as James says, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or do that.” Nevertheless we have received blessings from the Lord, His forgiveness and indwelling Spirit, and certainly not least His law written upon our hearts and therein all our responsibilities defined.

1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Therefore, let us strive to be good stewards of all He has given us remembering always, “Blessed are they who do His commandments, that they may enter into the city and have a right to the Tree of Life.”

Comments
  1. tsth says:

    Dear Brother,

    This brings to mind….have you ever looked into the Greek meaning of “Laodicea”…”The Last Church Age in Revelation 3. The meaning is translated “rights or justice of the people”. It is interesting that for a people who are so intent on getting their/our rights……God ultimately gives the people EVERYTHING that we are deserving of.
    It’s an interesting look at a church age….the word Laodicea is composed of two Greek words. You can find them in the Strongs under numbers: #2992 & #1349…to break down the 2 words…the actual Strongs entry for Laodicea is #2993.

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    • William E. Males says:

      Excellent point sister. Though there has never been a people that hasn’t ultimately received what they “rightly” deserved, there have been those times where God has poured out double unto them because of their heighten arrogance. I truly fear . . . not only for or country, but for those foolish virgins living in the midst of it calling themselves by His name.

      Peace,

      William

      Like

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