People seem to want everything for free. Sometimes, they turn to illegal measures to get free stuff. If you do a search for “electricity theft” on the internet, you’ll find how to catch it and how to prevent it. Yep, that’s right. People will try to find ways to steal electricity from their neighbors and the electric company. Sometimes the thief doesn’t set the wires right, and people die. In this wide-open internet, there is another form of theft: bandwidth theft. And this gets interesting. Many people who commit this theft don’t realize that they’re doing wrong. It’s called hotlinking. People commit hotlinking by posting an image to their page by linking back from the original image. This makes the person who put up the original image pay for the bandwidth used to put it on your site. I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but when bandwidth is limited, it might cause the site to shut down for a few days near the end of the month, or cause a jump in fees for that owner.
Small insidious thefts like electricity or cable bandwidth take away the simple joys we can get in life. The extra costs incurred usually aren’t a lot, but they annoy and grab at our pocketbooks. When it came to religion, the Pharisees added on the extra costs, so to speak. They created a world in which God had to be worshiped in just the right way, or else. So God, who sought to develop a relationship with His people that was designed to be joyful – it’s often described as a marriage in the Old Testament – ends up dealing with people who think they have to go through these thieves who would steal the joy of that relationship and replace it with drudgery. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)
Every time that Jesus taught the people, the Pharisees felt like they had to do damage control. He kept contradicting their ideas that people had to follow all those rules they had developed carefully over the years. He didn’t wash His hands using the right ceremony. His disciples threshed and ate grain that they picked ON THE SABBATH! Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, going so far in this most recent incident as to make mud to do that. They were losing control. People heard the message of Jesus that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand and they enjoyed their relationship with God as they experienced Him through Jesus Christ. The Pharisees didn’t like that. As they sought to regain control of the situation, because control of religious experience was so important to them, Jesus called them thieves. Then He talked about His purpose was that they might have life, and life to the full. An enjoyable life. He was going to lay down His life so that His sheep, His people, might have a full and meaningful life.
There are still people who claim to follow Christ and have a relationship with God who want to control the religious experiences of others. Joy isn’t a word they use often. Perhaps they seek to scare people into following Jesus. Maybe they shout the message that God hates them because of their sins. They seek to destroy the joy in the lives of others and replace it with an existence devoted to the worship of drudgery. They forget those words that I consider among the most beautiful in the Bible: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any less. God loves us so much and He wants us to have a full and abundant life. So, throw off the shackles of sin and the shackles of joy-less, love-less religion and walk daily with Jesus.
Oh Lord, what pure joy it is to walk with You. Help me to experience that joy and share it with others.