One of the most prevalent of modern myths is the idea that boundary-less living leads to freedom. A permissive lifestyle may feel free for a time, but it will soon trap us. In ludicrous manner we shout, “I’m free! I’m free!” as we back into a cage and lock the door.

Jesus’ stark warning about this cuts across our permissive society, just as it cut across His own. In Matthew 7:13-14, He portrays the choice as one between two roads—one narrow, another broad—leading to two destinations (life or death).

The broad road is loud and crowded (Matthew 7:13). It’s the path of self-will and selfish ambition, of loose promises and sexual permissiveness, of hatred, revenge, and doing good for personal gain, of hypocritical religion, and of a materialism that leaves no room for God. This road is popular because it’s easy. We simply let our natural desires lead us.

The narrow road, by contrast, is so small that most of us walk past it. Few are rushing to it. This is the path of following God’s will rather than our own (Matthew 7:21), of firm promises and marital faithfulness (Matthew 5:27-37), of reconciliation, turning cheeks, and anonymous charity (Matthew 5:21-26,38-48, 6:1-4), of true spirituality and choosing God above possessions (Matthew 6:5-34).

The broad road feels so free, but it leads to death and hell (Matthew 7:13). There’s no freedom in either. The narrow road initially looks constricting, but looks are deceiving. We’ve shed our baggage to fit through its gate and walk lighter and with more freedom—into eternal life itself (Matthew 7:14).

Don’t think Jesus is talking only about heaven and hell here. The life and death He speaks of is experienced now, depending on whether we follow Him or not (Matthew 7:24-27). Others may jeer, but those who follow Jesus down His narrow path will live in joyous freedom.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Hebrews 10:19-39