“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything” (Galatians 4:1).
Paul asks us to imagine a wealthy man with a child who will someday inherit everything. Though he will one day run the entire operation, the child when still a minor has no authority at all. He “is no different from a slave.” Even the people who work for his father and will someday work for him are expected to boss him around: “he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father” (v. 2).
Paul explains that his people have had this same relationship with God. They were intended to be heirs of all God’s promises in creation. However, humanity needed to grow and mature. God’s Law served as a teacher until the time of maturity (3:24; 4:3). Then, “when the fullness of time had come,” God acted to bring his people fully into their inheritance. Jesus, “his Son, born of woman, born under the law,” redeemed God’s children and brought them to their promised status. God sent “the Spirit of his Son” to teach us how to be sons and daughters of God. The result: “so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (v. 7).
God has acted to change our status and prepare us for his promises and the responsibility which comes with them. Growing up is hard work, but it is necessary work. Maturity is what allows us to appreciate what God has done and even participate in it. Growth into spiritual adulthood permits us to stop being hindrances to God’s work in this world and start being agents of his purpose, workers of his intent.
When you think of your goals and agendas for the coming year, which status do you fit into most – child or heir? The child thinks of himself and plans only for his own benefit. He expects others to shoulder the major burdens while he focuses on his own amusement. This is fine behavior for child, even expected, but you are not one of those are you?
An heir thinks of the future and the heritage being given by the father. He plans to do what he can to help his father’s work. He does not seek to replace his father or strike out on his own, but he does look for ways to participate and do his part.
Once a young boy showed us more maturity than some of us muster in a lifetime. In the temple, the boy Jesus told his parents, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) Jesus learned early to act as an heir. This little child is our role model in maturity. How are you planning to grow this year? How do you expect to act as an heir rather than a child? Will we find you doing your Father’s business?