From the earliest moments of civilization slavery has been an accepted institution. The desire for wealth, power, and domination are at the root of the problem. We want to show that we have wealth… enough wealth to skip the mundane tasks of life and hand it off to another. We want to reflect that we have power… enough power to control our own lives, and maybe even the life of another. We want the ability to dominate… enough ability to potentially be in charge of another human, legally or not. And this all stems from our earliest written account of humanity, where we decided to be little gods of our own making, rather than the reflection of God that we were meant to be.
The Evil of Slavery
YHWH never wanted humans to dominate over each other. In His perfect Garden human (Adam) and life (Eve) walked with God, saw His face, and enjoyed all good and pleasant things that the garden had to offer.
God made human-life to work together, cherishing the world and helping it grow to be a safe space for all humanity… all on equal footing. But although everything they needed was provided to them, humanity decided they wanted more, and so even though they were warned they took a bite of the poison that would instill a desire for power, dominance and wealth.
They no longer had a place in the Garden, because what they wanted they could no longer obtain… and so they were exiled out of the Garden to make their way in the wilderness. Within a generation they started to murder each other; within a few generations men were taking on multiple wives and concubines became servants. War was soon to follow, and out of war came prisoners of war who became exiled slaves to their oppressors.
By the time Yeshua (Jesus) came onto the scene, slavery and servitude was a common practise. The Jewish people in Israel had been under Roman oppression for years. They resented the power that Rome had over them and they hoped for a Messiah that would come and free them from their servitude to their Roman oppressors. Yeshua the Messiah did come, but He was not the great Warrior King they had hoped for. Instead, He was a Servant King… and that was a radical concept which they did not have a category for. How could YHWH’s Anointed One have so little power that He let Rome execute Him on a cross? Wasn’t God a god of power and dominance?
Apparently no. That was not what God was about.
Micah 6: 8
He has told you, mortal one, what is good; and what does YHWH require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
God didn’t care about power, wealth, dominance and prestige. He cared about His creation and He wanted them to be humble, just and kind. To be this kind of person… someone who stands up for the justice of others, someone who shows love and kindness to everyone, someone who walks through life in humility… you would have to live a life of servanthood to your fellow humans, putting others before yourself.
A Free Slave
Our only Master is our Creator, and He is not a domineering slave driver but a benevolent loving Monarch who cherishes His people and our freedom:
O YHWH, I surely am Your slave [av’deka], I am Your slave [av’deka], the son of Your female slave [av’deka], You have unfastened my restraints.
We may be the servants of YHWH, but He does not chain us down. We are not imprisoned; we have no bindings that are holding us back. We are free. And since we were made in God’s image, we are meant to offer that same kind of freedom to others.
Of course there’s another kind of slavery… a slavery that we freely give ourselves over to. When we give our allegiance to sin and evil we become prisoners of our own making.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. Now the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”
Heart of a Servant
We were never meant to be be slaves or slave-master to our fellow humans, but human slavery is a real and present evil. Although today slavery is illegal, there is still a thriving underground network of slavery and indentured servitude, proving that evil is still alive and well today.
But there is a difference between forced slavery and having the heart of a servant. We are called to be servants to each other… laying our lives down in order to lift others up. And we can be lifted up by others when they lay down their lives for us. It is a symbiotic relationship. If everyone put others first, we’d all be lifted up by each other.
Wealth, power and dominance are a stumbling block to becoming what humans were meant to be… kind, helpful, humble life-lifters, always putting others ahead of ourselves. Can you imagine what it would be like if every human on the planet was like that? What a beautiful world this would be.
For more on the Biblical Hebrew concept of servitude/slavery, click below:
Next week: Prisoner