Second Reading: Romans 8:9, 11-13

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

How can you be charitable to the self-centered people in your life?

Popular Translation

9 If God’s Spirit lives in you, you will not rebel against God. Instead, you will say “Yes” to the Spirit. If someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that person is not a follower of Jesus.

11 God raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. If his Spirit lives in you, God will give your dead bodies life.

12 Brothers and Sisters, we do not owe sin anything, so we shouldn’t live in sin. 13 If you sin, you will die. But, if you do away with sin with the help of God’s Spirit, you will live.

Literal Translation

9 You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But, if someone does not have th Spirit of CHRIST, this (person) is not of HIM. 10 If CHRIST is in you, the body is indeed dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of the (One) having raised JESUS from the dead dwells in you, the (One) having raised CHRIST from the dead will give life to your dead-like bodies through the dwelling of his Spirit in you.

12 So, therefore, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, (so) to live by the flesh, 13 for, if you live by the flesh, you will (soon) die. If, in the Spirit, you put the deeds of the flesh to death, you will live.

Certain people in our worlds are so self-centered, they cannot see their actions are only self-directed. As the saying goes, they “want it both ways.” Their relationships are only one way (toward themselves). Their acts of charity are self-serving; their altruism is self- promotion. These are the people that find no problem with pushing rules to the limit (and sometimes over the limit) to serve themselves.

Of course, we all suffer from self-absorption to some degree or another; we all have the temptation to make ourselves “Number One!” When we worship at our own altars, however, we fail to see work of the Greater One in action. We become so steeped in our own little worlds, we cannot see God’s Spirit in life.

In his rabbinical style, Paul wrote to the Roman community in style of stark contrasts. For Paul, the world could be divided into two camps: those in the flesh and those in the Spirit. Those in the flesh lived a life of ignorance to God’s will simply because they had not yet gained faith. But, those in the flesh could be back-sliders or those with knowledge of the Christian life, but still rejected the “Way.” “In the flesh” meant all those who were not truly Christian.

Those in the Spirit, however, lived the Christian lifestyle. They worshiped together, shared fellowship with mutual affection, and reached out to non-believers. Not only did they think differently, they acted differently. Their faith led to charity. Their concern was for others.

Paul may have painted the world in “black and white” terms, but his point is well taken. There is a difference between “it’s all about me” and “it’s all about others.” That difference is the Spirit. When we live in sin, we focus on the self and we slowly die. When we live in the Spirit, we focus on others (especially THE Other) and live. When we live in sin, we want it both ways. When we live in the Spirit, we only want what God wants.

Have you prayed to the Spirit lately? How has the Spirit helped you to extend yourself for others?