For example, I can picture the glimmer of hope a prisoner on the way to Auschwitz would feel upon reading the sign that stood over the gate: Arbeit Macht Frei – Work Shall Set You Free.
I can picture myself turning that over in my head. True, the stories have said that no one was ever set free, but the sign! The sign says that work could set me free! Perhaps, if I just work the hardest…
And I can picture that sign and those words driving me to work harder than anyone else. I can picture seeing my friends being exterminated and reasoning with myself, “They didn’t work hard enough, that’s all. I’ll work harder.”
I can picture my body deteriorating as I worked it to its breaking point. Again, I would reason with myself, “It’s a test. I must pass it. Work shall set me free.”
Months would pass. I’d outwork them all. Finally I would be taken away from the other inmates. I’d be led away, all the while thinking that all my work had finally paid off. But then they’d herd me into that building from which I had never seen anyone leave. And in my last moments of life I’d be raising my confused protest, “But I worked! You said that work would set me free!”
I think that the door to religion has the same sign over it. Work, and you will be free. And so we work. We sacrifice. When our friends fall, we say they didn’t work hard enough. When trials come, we say we just need to work harder. But work cannot set us free. It never could. If is could, most of us would be free already.
The Truth sets you free.
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