The Christian Slave; Understanding Modern And Ancient Slavery

Posted: 27 August, 2008 in Ponderings
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The Christian Slave; Understanding Modern And Ancient Slavery, ethanol power

There are times when situations at work becomes difficult and we need all the help we can get. The way of the world taught us is to just simply “jump ship” or go away to find another job, leaving the mess behind. Some liberal marketplaces allow its workers to protest or go on strike, demostrating their displeasure. Some others defy by choosing to just limp-along deliberately at work without contributing much. While there may be many reasons and explanations for such actions, it is interesting to note what the Bible has to say:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.   Colossians 3:22-25

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.   Ephesians 6:5-8

It is quite simple and straightforward. With sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord, work and serve as for the Lord and not for men, doing it well with the expectation of receiving the inheritance from the Lord as reward. We are called to put in our best at work for the Lord. And know that as we strive to remain faithful, He is faithful and just; and more will be blessed upon us, Matthew 25:14-30.

The Christian Slave; Understanding Modern And Ancient Slavery, lifetimes

Now, the difficult part, Slaves! Who in any civilized parts of the world consider themselves slaves? Throughout history, slavery has been terribly misguided and abused by the wicked for profiteering upon the human-trade. The lessons from the grave misfortune of human trafficking slavery cannot be forgotten. However, it has to be noted that the history has also been dramatically exaggerated out of portions, mixed with racism and emotions, see here and here.

Christianity as a whole has been rapped with a bad name for not having a clear stand against “slavery” as claimed, see here. However, my view is that all these are due to the lack or very poor understanding from the Bible in regards to the livelihood of slaves as a form of servanthood (read:employment) and not an unfree labour (read: modern-day slavery) . In Exodus 21, just after the Ten Commandments and Proper Use of Altars comes Fair Treatment of Slaves, so you can see the emphasis of importance, see here.

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. Exodus 21:2

I don’t know about you but does that verse seem to read like a 6 years contract employment; translated over 3,000 years ago, nevertheless? Although the biblical labour law is somewhere different from the modern day equivalent; it is because these are relics of the anicent past. You cannot naively expect the law to be on par with modern day standard or expectations. Ancient biblical slaves did not have an easy life, but that does not mean they are robbed, unprotected or abused. Primarily our perception of a slave is stained by the atrocities commited in the recent century and even in modern day, but we have to recongnise that it is not the case as depicted in the Bible.

And if there are any more doubts, “Kidnappers must be put to death, whether they are caught in possession of their victims or have already sold them as slaves. Exodus 21:16   Verse 16 clearly states the kidnappers for human-trade-trafficking is to be put to death, the most servere punishment.  So in summary, slaves in ancient times are “selling themselves” for sum of money – over a period of time (6 years) – out of free will. In today’s language, we call it contract employment or bonded service, not human-trafficking.

And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23

The other challenging portion of the Bible that attracted the most accusation is in 1 Corinthians. While the context is to urge believers to continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed us, it also points out that we are now a slave of Christ. Frankly, I have no problems with that! In fact, I am glad to be a slave of Christ because He is a Master who truely cares. Jesus paid a high price for us; in fact, He paid with everything He has, including His own life. If you have been like me, had previously been enslaved by the world through addictions, cowed in fear and cheated of your freedom before, then you will know to be a slave under Christ is in fact a great joy and great freedom!

The Christian Slave; Understanding Modern And Ancient Slavery, Freedom in Christ

Dear beloved, that’s not all, and for the finale:

I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  John 15:15-16

Tell me we have a great wonderful Savior!


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