Sermon – January 8, 2017
One of the chief complaints that people tend to lay against Christians is that we simply nit-pick from Scripture the things to which we adhere. Homosexuality? No, the bible denies it as a valid way of life for a child of God. But, they ask, “What of slavery? It is rampant in Scriptures, never forbid, and yet Christians today are directly (and rightly) against it? How is this not like homosexuality?” What shall we do with this argument? What help does Paul provide to us in thinking through the difficult issue of slavery and the Christian’s righteousness is an unrighteous world?
1. Slavery is reformed in Scripture
While it is true that Scripture does not condemn slavery, it undermines it at every turn. The OT sees only contextual difference between service and slavery (Exo 21:1-11; Lev. 25:39-40); roundly rejects the mistreatment of slaves/servants (Exo 21:26-32); and considers slaves/servants as subject to the same rules and regulations as Israelites (Deut 5:12-15). What of the NT?
2. Servants, serve with sincerity
Before turning his attention to the masters, Paul focuses on the servants, likely for the practical reason that there is simply more of them. Paul instructs them to work hard, whether their masters notice or not. Christian, do not be hypocritical in your work!
3. Servants, serve the Savior
Paul provides the main impetus for your sincere work: you truly work for the Lord. If you are to honor the Lord in all you do, demonstrating a heart, mind, soul, and body bent on loving him, you are to work for your earthly masters the same way.
4. Servants, serve for satisfaction
Finally, the fact that you are serving the Lord means, by implication, that you are finally paid by him as well. Christian, you true master is not stingy, but gregarious and liberal with all that is his. Work hard, for there is a great reward!
5. Masters, serve
Finally, Paul turns to the masters, and reminds them that they too have a master to whom they will give an account. Here, Paul levels the field shockingly: implying masters need to demonstrate both fairness and equality in dealing with servants.
Turning to our original question, while Paul doesn’t overturn slavery, he radically undermines it to the point where, in Christian hands, the practice ceases to look like slavery at all. Paul’s message, then, is both countercultural and wise, reframing the practice without the grave damage which would have been reaped by calling for its demolition. In doing so, he provides insight into our own situations, giving us both exhortations and encouragements toward hard work. Work like this world is not your own!