Today you should read: 1 Timothy 6:1-2
Passages like the one we have today are vastly misunderstood and often feared by Christians, though they should not be. We are fearful because of the dark images and sin that are associated with the words slavery, masters, and servants but we must do our due dilligence to understand the Bible and what it says on such real world issues.
First, we must understand that not everything that the Bible gives instruction to means the Bible is in support of. We have to think of divorce. Divorce, like slavery, is a result of sin. Yet, nonetheless God gives Biblical instruction to it without endorsing it or calling it “good.”
We also have to make sure we define our terms. “World history is full of many types of slavery” (Platt, 98).
- Hebrew Servanthood – Leviticus 25:35-43
This was to provide for the poor of the community. They were not to be mistreated, but the purpose was to take care of the community and help people get back on their feet. Although, we can assume that because of sin this was not perfect and didn’t always function as it was commanded to.
- Roman Slavery
This was not always evil but even often benefited the poor providing security, stability, and citizenship. This was not about ethnicity but about social status.
- Indentured Servants
Where people worked to pay off their debt. “This is much closer to Hebrew Servanthood than anything else.” (Platt, 100)
- African Slave Trade
This was pure evil, racist, and abusive. Unspeakable things took place in the “Christian South.” We look back on this with hurt, regret as a nation, and heavy hearts.
As we can see “Biblical history is full of various perspectives on slavery. Slavery is not a part of creation (that is, God’s created order); it is a result of sin.” (Platt, 101) God made the world without distinction and is bringing it back to that.
“The fact that slavery is ultimatly connected to sin in Scripture mean that specific situations in a sinful world warrent specific instructions to a sinful world. The instructions in the Old Testament and in 1 Timothy that speak to slaves are addressing specific circumstances surrounding slavery at a specific time. When we understand this context addressing the church, we see that Biblical instructions concerning slavery do not imply Biblical approval of slavery. Slavery is a product of sin. When Paul addressed slavery, he was not endorsing it; he was helping shepherd people who were trapped in a sin-tainted economic and social system that produced the need for slavery.” (Platt, 102)
Paul is encouraging in Scripture people who are forced to live in this imperfect situation in several ways:
- Honor Unbelieving Masters (v.1)
They should treat them with respect and honor because they too are made in the image of God. He wanted them to do this “so that God’s name and teaching may not be reviled.” How we treat others, even those whom may not deserve it, matters. It shows the character and nature of God in Heaven. He was calling them to act this way for the glory of God. This applies to us even in our workplaces… how we treat a boss that we have trouble agreeing with matters. They were called, just like us, to treat them with honor and respect for the advancement of the gospel.
- Serve Wholeheartedly (v.2)
Though verse 1 is to slaves with unbelieving masters and verse 2 is for those with believing masters the principles carry over. Live with respect and honor and serve wholeheartedly. The same holds true for Christian employees today. We reflect the God we serve with how we serve. We should serve selflessly. The kind of selfless serving they were called to and we are called to show fruit of gospel transformation.
Ultimately this shows our God. Paul considered himself a δουλας or bondservant to Jesus Christ. “The essence of Christianity is that our master has become our servant and so, in turn, we become His slave… At the end of the day, the question is not if we are slaves but whose slaves we are. Either we will serve sin and Satan or we will serve the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.” (Platt, 108)
How can you reflect your TRUE master, Jesus Christ, in how you live today?
Platt, David. Christ Centered Exposition… Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. (B & H Publishing. Nashville, TN. 2013)
By: Nick Parsons — Pastoral Ministry Associate: College
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