Voluntary service for slaves

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). (The first verse, in italics, is not included in the “Sip of Scripture” reading).

I wish I knew more about slaves in the early churches, such as those at Colossae, whom Paul addresses here. Was their relationship to their masters more like the slave/master relationship of the antebellum American South, or more like our current employee/employer relationship? Does it not seem odd to you, brothers and sisters, for Paul not to address their lack of freedom? When Paul writes, “there is no favoritism,” he clearly means the relationship between God and humanity; but is it also an implied command for the church and the slave-holders in the church? (I think so, given the wife/husband, child/father, slave/master parallelism).

Is Paul saying something like this:  I know you slaves cannot choose what you do, but you can choose how you do it. It is better to do an unjust thing well than badly. Think about your involuntary service as voluntarily done as to Jesus, and Jesus will be pleased with you (and punish those who do you wrong).

And I wonder, this morning, what it means for those of us who voluntarily work for others. I pray that I (and you) and “work as to the Lord,” doing our best at what we do.

And I finally wonder, this morning, about those upon whose labors our own ease and comfort depends: on poorer workers in China, India and other places in the world, people who make our clothes, and grow our food, and build our electronics. God will not show favoritism against them, or for us: “anyone who does wrong will be repaid for wrong.”

God, make us wise in walking through an unjust world.

About Will Fitzgerald

I work on recommendation systems and lexical resources for Wordnik.

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