Advice to Slaves and Masters

In Ephesians 6 Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians with some counsel to parents and children and then to slaves and masters. Some say that the Bible promotes slavery. I have read where some have used the text of the Bible, including Ephesians chapter 6, to justify slavery in America in the 19th century. However, using the Bible that way would be a misuse of the Bible and the words that Paul wrote down. The Bible doesn’t condone slavery; rather, Paul is simply counseling the slaves and masters how to function in their new life in Jesus Christ. Let’s read what Paul writes starting in verse 5: 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. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. 

Paul is asking the bondservants who is reading his letter to see themselves as servants of Christ and that by serving their masters well, they are also serving Christ. He is exhorting them to look beyond this world to the next world. He is reminding them that their service to their earthly masters is actually doing service to the Lord. Paul is not advocating the slaves revolt…after all, how would they have survived? There was no government safety net for them. For the slaves to have revolted would have meant mostly death. Also, the servant/master relationship in the 1st century was significantly different, in most cases, than the plight of the American slave in the 19th century. Paul also exhorts the masters of the slaves/servants to treat them well and to see that their treatment of their servants should be reflective of their heavenly Father’s treatment of them.

How do we apply this today? Well, perhaps in this way. We often find ourselves in tasks or jobs or duties where we are working for or serving under someone who is difficult or even abusive. Though today we have the ability to seek a change in job or even to hold the person over us accountable, we can still see our work as being “as to the Lord” and even when things can’t change, we can serve Christ in that difficult situation. We can know that God has not forgotten us and that He will reward us. Also, if you are in a supervisory position, please heed Paul’s words to treat those you supervise with dignity and respect, knowing that God also is involved in your relationships at work.


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