5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
Yesterday when I commented on this I made it clear Paul was writing of slaves, literal slaves in Ephesus which was part of the Roman Empire and had been since 129 BC. And slavery in the Roman Empire could be very ugly as one half of the population in the empire were slaves. At the time of this writing many of the slaves had become Christians as had a number of slave owners. Because Paul knew this he continued the verses above with
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.
The good news of Jesus Christ has seen the end of most slavery in the world, but today there are more slaves than ever before – though the smallest percentage at this time. It is important to understand slavery does continue to exist and is incredibly ugly in its many forms. Thus the following links are provided so you may acquaint yourself and perhaps your family with what is going on worldwide. So the links are here, here, here, here, and here. These are the most realistic and least self-serving I could find. Estimates of the number of slaves worldwide vary from 20 million to 70 million with the actual number probably at the higher end as there is an on-going attempt to keep the actual numbers hidden in many places.
Beyond prayer – and prayer is incredibly important – there is much that can be done to fight modern day slavery. Often it is by simply increasing one’s self awareness of the problem and making others aware of it as well. Other suggestions may be found here, here, here, and here.
Changing back to today and the status of the vast majority of people as free men and free women how are we to look at these verses and apply them to ourselves today. It is worthy of consideration as 100’s of millions are slaves to sin and they are offered the free gift of freedom from sin through Jesus. One reader wrote
Again, when the slave serves voluntarily, out of love, then the entire relationship changes. And social order can be trans formed, which is essentially what happened throughout the empire. See Exodus 21:5-6 and Deuteronomy 15:16-17, as well as the short “postcard” that Paul wrote to Philemon dealing with the issue of master/slave relationships in the church.
When I was working in a factory, it occurred to me that my attitude made all the difference. If I imagined I was serving a corporate entity, or a harsh, demanding supervisor, then I developed a “bond-servant” mentality. But if I maintained a spiritual perspective, that I was serving the Lord, and providing for my family with His help, then I was “free indeed”. The choice is ours.
Another reader pointed out when the end times arrive (sooner than we expect) judgment comes for all, slave or free, great or small.
17 Then I saw an angel standing on the sun. He shouted in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair: “Come and gather together for God’s great feast! 18 Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and soldiers, the flesh of horses and their riders, the flesh of all people, slave and free, great and small!”
Once again the question boils down to who are we going to serve? The Lord Jesus Christ or Mammon? And mammon can take many forms – money, possessions, or simply me, me, me and the heck with everyone else. As said earlier, The choice is ours.
It is a wonder or an awesome thing, that our God loves us so much He gave us His Son so that we might live a life free of sin and have a future with Him and His Son in heaven as brothers and sisters to His Son. Thus we should freely Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord. It is indeed our choice.