Is Anything Really Free?
The things labeled “free” usually have an asterisk that leads to fine print. Could there be some fine print we are missing in how we live our lives?
There are few things in this life that raise my suspicions as high as something marked “Free.*” It’s a word we see all over the place. Phone companies, clothing retailers, Internet service providers and even charitable organizations use it. But when you trace that asterisk to the bottom of the page, there’s always a swath of text written in a tiny, 6-point font that effectively condenses to “*not really.”
Before we even read the first word of all that legalese, we always know there will be a catch. Someone, somewhere, is paying for it—and if a business is offering it to you, they intend to have their hands in your wallet someway or somehow!
Maybe it’s exorbitant shipping and handling fees. Maybe there’s a two-year contract, or it’s only after you purchase something of greater or equal value. The point is this: If someone offers you something for Free,* then you’re probably going to be paying for it one way or another.
But the whole concept of Free* isn’t anything new. It’s a dirty marketing trick that has been around for thousands of years. In fact, we can trace its earliest recorded use back to a familiar scene featuring a woman, a garden and a snake.
Satan takes an ugly sin, rebrands it into something attractive, and then throws that little * into the corner, hoping we will be too distracted by the flash and the glitter to pay any attention. But with Satan there will always be a catch!Devilish marketing
“You will not surely die.”
That’s the very first lie recorded in the Bible. Eve had told the serpent that God had listed death as the consequence of eating from the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:3; 2:17). The serpent responded by undermining God: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
Eve bought the lie, bit the fruit and found out the hard way about fine print. No, she didn’t surely die—right that second. When God said, “you shall surely die,” He was not referring to immediate death.
The act of rebellion against God by eating the forbidden fruit made death inevitable by cutting her off from the tree of life. Satan convinced her to overlook an asterisk, and he’s been doing the same thing with the rest of the world since then.
Free* is rarely free
Satan operates in the realm represented by those asterisks. He takes an ugly sin, rebrands it into something attractive, and then throws that little * into the corner, hoping we will be too distracted by the flash and the glitter to pay any attention.
But with Satan there will always be a catch.
He doesn’t offer human beings temptations because he wants us to enjoy life; he does it because he wants us to ignore what God has to offer to us.
There’s a reason God thundered the 10 Commandments from Mount Sinai, just as there’s a reason Jesus Christ taught about the spirit and the letter of the 10 Commandments throughout His earthly ministry.
The instructions God gives us in the Bible are not restrictions intended to limit our enjoyment of life. They exist to protect us from the results of sin—the very damage Satan tries to hide in the fine print of the asterisk attached to nearly everything he offers humanity as pleasure.
Take sex as an example. How hard has Satan worked to make premarital and extramarital sex appear fun? Desirable? Normal? Harmless?
All Satan wants us to see is how much Free* fun we’re missing out on if we don’t engage in it. He wants us to ignore the little asterisk that reminds us about the STDs, broken relationships, shattered trust and emotional pain of sin. He also wants us to overlook the lifelong pleasure and lack of fine print we can experience by enjoying sex only within the boundaries of marriage.
The narrow gate
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Notice what He said about the pathway to destruction: many go in by it. Free* looks so appealing!
But the end of that path—the end of the path with the great big gate that says FREE*—is destruction (in other words, death). That is the fine print that Satan has nearly the whole world ignoring (Revelation 12:9).
The narrow path has a promised destination—the Kingdom of God—a destination that has no fine print concealing unwanted realities.
The path you walk is your choice. Just know that Free* in this world generally isn’t free, and it isn’t worth it.
Choose the narrow gate instead.