“but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8 – NKJV)
IN a world of self-determination, “selfies” and self-enrichment, the biblical concept of serviceability stands in stark contrast. We hear more and more:
“We do what works for us!”
“Make money for yourself!”
“You are special!”
“I deserve it!”
“It’s my right!”
“How can I help you?”
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“How do you want me to do this?”
No modern Western person would endorse slavery today. Yet, the idea that one can be a possession of another with no rights and absolute obedience, and the fact that a person is often enslaved without their own choice runs counter to all social rights.
Yet slavery is still with us: a recent case of the fate of 65 million immigrants, who are also not homeless and unemployed by choice, has been left to a friendly country and government.
The secret sex trade is on the rise. Overall unemployment is higher than ever. This type of abuse and disregard that every human being is created in the image of God must be strongly condemned and we must do everything in our power to oppose these practices and seek solutions together.
The Christian religious community’s so-called justification of slavery over history casts a dark shadow over the church’s message of God’s love for mankind. The Bible seems to approve of slavery and is therefore rejected outright by social entrepreneurs. Yet, digging deeper, the Bible offers a very practical alternative. Slavery does not make you a victim. Poor and rich both play an important, mutually dependent role towards each other. “The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.” (Prov. 22: 2).
The servant and the ruler / ruler are both subject to a code of reverence, justice, esteem and fear of the Lord! The Bible does not see servants as slaves being abused like the Israelites among the Egyptians. “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses.” (Ex. 1:11).
Jews remember the 400 years of slavery to which they were subjected, and do not treat their workers like slaves either. The biblical narratives are riddled with stories of slaves, servants, or subjects who have had a significant impact at the right time in the government and on the decisions of powerful people.
The Influence of Good Servanthood
Joseph: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” (Gen. 39:21-23).
“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” (Gen. 41:39-44).
Nehemiah: As a servant, Nehemiah was not unaware of what was happening to his people. Although he was merely a servant, he shows a kind of sense of responsibility for right and wrong. He is also a good steward of his influence with the king.
“O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.” (Neh. 1:11).
“And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.” (Neh. 2:1).
The king is kind enough to give Nehemiah what he desires. This would not have happened if Nehemiah had not won the favor of the king in various ways and occasions. That is why the king wanted to know immediately: “Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.” (Neh. 2:6).
Maid of Naaman: “And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.” (2 Kings 5:2).
Daniel: Daniel’s loyalty to God, as well as to his employer, is unquestionable. Think how difficult it must have been as a Hebrew to be the chief ruler over all the wise non-Hebrews, non-Torah-based leaders, occult magicians, witches, and priests of idols. “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.” (Dan. 2:48).
He never abused his position. On the contrary, he openly defended and protected the interests of the king: “So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.” (Dan. 6:4).
They could find nothing wrong except his faith: “Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (Dan. 6:5).
May the Lord raise up such leaders again in our country, and in the world!
The Life Of A Servant: Protected and Valuable
A slave’s life was protected: “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.” (Ex. 21: 20-21).
Slaves, along with their entire family, were able to gain their freedom (Ex. 21: 2-11, 20-21).
Slaves released: “If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today. And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise. It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.” (Deut. 15: 12-18).
They were protected by the law: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”” (Ex. 20:17).
The servants must also rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10).
A good servant gains greater authority and responsibility: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” (Matt. 24: 45-46).
The sick servant who was very valuable to the chief, so that the chief sent messengers to Jesus for his healing (Luke 7: 1-10).
Voluntary Surrender of a Servant: “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.” (1 Cor. 7: 20-24).
The biggest difference in perspective that the new covenant casts on slavery is the abolition of obligation. Throughout the ages, people have been obliged to be a servant because of their skin color, ethnicity, and class. There was simply no choice. You were expected to remain a slave.
Paul abolishes this obligation and points out the meaning of calling. Adam and Eve both worked at the beginning and did not have slaves to do things for them. True spiritual bondage is not to value your calling and purpose of creation. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, but were deceived into thinking that they must do something to be like God (Gen. 3: 5).
Neither did Esau understand or esteem the value of his birthright. Esau sells his birthright without calculating the consequences (Gen. 25:29; Heb. 12:16). To me, biblical slavery has nothing to do with what type of profession or job you do. In some European countries, certain professionals earn even more than directors and academics, because this skill is considered valuable to the workforce. Being a servant is an important position, and not inferior. Slavery is to work without realizing or understanding my purpose in creation. I live like a robot, just for a salary check, without any sense of calling. Someone who sees his profession as a calling, works with passion and enthusiasm.
The letter to Philemon gives us a beautiful explanation of how to deal with a servant who has now become a brother. Paul acknowledges Philemon’s authority: “But I would not do anything without your consent, so that your benefit would not be out of coercion, but out of free choice.” (Phil. 14?).
Scriptural Principles For Employees
There are basically two primary roles in the Bible in terms of the workplace: that of owner and that of servant. In Christ this distinction is removed before God: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28).
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.“ (Matt. 10:24).
“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” (John 13:16).
Yet Paul declares: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.” (1 Cor. 7: 19-22).
Jesus offers us the example of a servant – John. 13: 4-17. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2: 5-7).
Our attitude as employees is clear: “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” (Eph. 6: 5-8).
“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for[a] you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.” (Col. 3: 22-25).
All the more so if your owner is a believer: “And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.” (1 Tim. 6: 2).
“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Pet. 2: 18-21).
All Called To Servanthood
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God..” (1 Pet. 4:10).
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses andescape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Laziness is Condemned as Foolishness
• “Take a look at the ant, sluggard, see how it works, and learn from it” (Prov. 6: 6).
• “How long are you going to lie down, lazy, when are you going to get up?” (Prov. 6: 9).
• “The sluggard’s hunger is not quenched; hardworking people have more than enough to eat. ” (Prov. 13: 4).
• “A slothful man puts his hand in the dish, but does not bring it back to his mouth” (Prov. 19:24).
• “A sloth does not plow during the sowing season and searches for something that is not there at harvest time.” (Prov. 20: 4).
• “A lazy man seeks his death, because he does not want to roll up his sleeves.” (Prov. 21:25).
• “The lazy man says:“ There is a lion out there! I can be killed if I venture outside! ” (Prov. 22:13). • “I walked past the lazy man’s land, at the foolish man’s vineyard.” (Prov. 24:30).