The Bible Allows Slavery?

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Slavery is not a new condition and it is not just a historical institution. Current estimates are that 30 to more than 40 million people are enslaved today worldwide. In America sex slavery is thriving and active. So what does the Bible say about slavery? Obviously God is against slavery right? Well maybe not and that is a criticism that Atheist groups level at the Bible by citing verses like these…

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Colossians 3:22 NLT

44 “However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you. Leviticus 25:44 NLT

So is slavery acceptable to God? Can Christians participate in such activity? The short answer is absolutely “no” slavery is not acceptable. How can I unequivocally say that for the contemporary reader that slavery is not acceptable but then find in the Bible ground rules permitting this institution?

In order to answer that question there is something that needs to be untangled to resolve the conflict. That primary entanglement is racism and abuse. Slavery as most commonly understood in the North American context was practiced based on racism that only black people could be enslaved. People of color were erroneously viewed as less human than their white owners. This form of slavery rooted in racism is evil, wrong, and in no way ever condoned in the Biblical narrative or acceptable to the character of God. Racism is wrong because there is only one race, all peoples are directly descendant from Adam and Eve, and all people are made in the image of God. Treating anyone regardless of status as less than fully made in the image of God is unbiblical and pure evil.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 ESV

The declaration of independence states the Biblical view perfectly… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” All people are equal because they are created in the image of God himself. Sex slavery of modern times and racist slavery of the not so distant past are evil not because of slavery (although slavery as a practice quickly leads to this path) but because they demean and degrade the equality of humanity. The equality that is true is that all people regardless circumstance, wealth, or privilege are equal before God since all people are created in His image.

Not all slavery historically had anything to do with racism it had to do with power, commerce, and imperialism. When North America was first discovered slavery became big business because there was a shortage of workers. People would be sold or kidnapped to provide that workforce. Slavery or indentured servitude was the price of getting to the new country. Only later on did the practice migrate to the even more evil racist version that America still holds the scars of its practice. Robert Louis Stevenson based one of his adventure novels on kidnapping for slavery of a non-person of color. The story starts out with a young man from a wealthy home in England being sold unknowingly by his greedy uncle to a life of slavery in North America.

“And so he ran on, until it came in on me what he meant by twenty-pounders where those unhappy criminals who were sent over-seas to slavery in North America, or the still more unhappy innocents who were kidnapped or trepanned (as the word went) for private interest or vengeance.” (Stevenson, 43)

So how does the practice of slavery in Biblical days differ from the modern versions that are not acceptable? The answer to this resides in the fact that not all people are equal in opportunity. All men are equal in rights before God but the Bible does not proclaim a Gospel of earthly “fairness” and equal prosperity. (Fairness and Justice are not the same in this case. Goes does expect the privileged to be just to those without privilege) Paul highlights this in that verse Atheist love to quote but I will add the full context this time.

22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Colossians 3:22-25 ESV

Whatever lot in life one has that person is to live that life with sincerity working for God as Paul says “serving the Lord Christ” not an earthly master. Even if the earthy master is evil or unjust. Paul reminds us that God will judge those who have been unjust toward their fellow humans. In Paul’s day when this letter was written slavery was a common institution based on class and circumstance. Some people were slaves, some were free, and some were citizens. The lot often fell based on the family one was born into. Paul was a citizen of Rome because of this family circumstance. Paul is telling the Church that none of these earthy circumstances have any weight in the body of Christ. Those who are saved now work and serve God and God alone no matter the current circumstances.

10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:10-11 ESV

To the modern reader I would challenge to not label oneself as free, slave, gay, rich, poor, black, white, privileged, transgendered, or abused. If you are in Christ then no modifier is needed. Serve Christ and Christ alone. Do not add any other label or identity to the name you have been given as a child of God.

In the Old Testament there are rules of governance on what is permissible for the Nation State of Israel. Those rules are not applicable to contemporary society because the Nation state of the Old Testament Israel does not exist. (I have written on this in the past)  However if one reads those laws in Exodus and Leviticus within context of that society then always the slave was to be treated as a fellow human with natural rights before God. A need for this kind of slavery may have existed at that time of tribal governance however it is not needed or acceptable in the contemporary world of today. The modern Christian has no reason to promote, encourage, or in any way participate in this institution. We also demand that the Atheist apply legitimate context to the Biblical text they want to blindly skewer Christians with.

Christ came and died for all men of any earthly status. Regardless of standing in society all who are saved through Christ are adopted as sons of the one true King and will live with the inheritance of that Kingdom in the age to come. Therefore treat your neighbors justly and with respect regardless of their current situation.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15 ESV

* Stevenson, Robert Lewis. Kidnapped. USA, Scribner, 1982.

Daily Devotion: The Sweet Taste of Honey

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The typical Apiarist, a person that keeps bees, might hope to harvest anywhere from fifty to one hundred pounds of honey from a single hive in a season. Thousands and thousands of bees working for a single queen are diligent throughout the spring to bring in sweet nectar from the blooming flowers and trees. The end result of their labor is the wonderful honey that holds so many benefits for anyone that receives the sweetness of their effort. The Psalmist writes that God’s word, the Bible, is sweeter and of more benefit than the honey from those busy bees. Take a moment to stop, taste, and savor the words of God as they could be the sweetest part of every day.

How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Psalm 119:103 (NLT)

 

Lesson #1: Spiritual Transparency in the Home

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Lesson #1 is the first step in a discipleship program. This program about the need to minister to the entire family and is part of a longer term conversation that all families should maintain on marriage, family, and child discipleship. What this lesson is not is a self-help series that simply contains basic cause and effect solutions to the routine conflict that all of us face each day as we work at our marriages and families. This is a discipleship program and should be executed inside of a small group to have a conversation with Christians who want to go deeper into their relationship with Christ and their families.

The goal of this program would be to draw closer to a spouse through Christ. The goal of this program would be to know that as parents we are discipling our children into a love for Christ that will set them on a path to serve Him for His glory. I pray and hope we all will hear from the Holy Spirit and take away meaningful upgrades to our knowledge of Him and how that impacts our relationship with family.

The first lesson will start with “Transparency” and focusing on our relationship with Christ in a corporate way with our spouse and children.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1 ESV

Satan seeks to isolate. By cutting us off from each other inside the family and in turn from the church he has a better chance of speaking lies into our heart. In this isolation he also has a better chance of encouraging us to continue in our sins that will lead to death. One of the major lies that many families accept and many churches accept is that we should remain quiet in the public square, that our faith is personal, and that we pray only in the closest. The only acceptable conversations for public would be sports, politics, our children’s activities, and where we are headed on our next vacation, but almost never does our conversation go to Christ and his work in our family.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Compare Satan who is shown as a Lion prowling for someone to consume looking for an opportunity to cut some unfortunate soul off from the group to Christ who is shown as a Shepherd seeking the one to bring back to the 99. God intended us to be in community within a group, not isolated and alone.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 ESV

Our testimony of what God is doing is encouragement to others and it is a lie from Satan that we keep our religion and relationship with Christ to ourselves. We need to be intentional about our dialog with others and intentional about bringing Christ into the conversation with our family. I love this introduction from Paul to the Romans.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 ESV

Do you long to see your spouse talk about what Christ is speaking into his/her life? Do you long to know what God is talking to your family about? Speak about these things with your spouse so that you may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. What an awesome spiritual gift that we might be missing in our lives.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 6:25-28 ESV

Paul seems to be asking Husbands to be like Christ by washing the marriage in the word of God so that both who are one flesh would be holy. Now husband and wife should follow Paul’s example. We need to prioritize the eternal of God over the temporary of self. In order to prioritize the eternal things of God we need to create a dialog between husband, wife, and children that is a comfortable natural outflow of our family’s cadence.

Here are the small group discussion questions and a link to the take home worksheet…

  1. Do you talk with your spouse about the spiritual and eternal burdens that you wrestle with God over?
  2. Do you ask your spouse to pray for you for the core struggles and the things that defeat you each day?
  3. If we asked your spouse would they know what you are currently reading or thinking about in regard to God? Is your relationship with Christ before the family or is it nonexistent to them?
  4. Do you keep a front up not sharing the burdens together because someone in the family must be the strong one?

Click here for a PDF copy of the take home worksheet

 

 

Do you have a Relationship with your Bible?

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Where is your Bible? Is it digital text on an iphone? Might it be a dusty book that is setting on a shelf somewhere? Or are you one of those with the sun baked bible in the back of your car that has not been moved in years? My bible the one I actually read and try to keep with me fits in my back pocket. It is compact where highlights, notes, and pages worn are a comfort to me as I know where each treasure already discovered can be found. This bible is also my favorite reading version the New International Version (NIV) 1984 translation. Do you have a relationship with your Bible like this? Do you know what translation your bible contains? When I was in high school the Holy Spirit started encouraging me to read the Bible. I had never read it outside of church before. So one night I found a black leather bound bible that had been given to me at some point in the past. I started trying to read it. It was a King James (KJV) translation with all the thees and thous from the King’s English of another world. I struggled to read it and it put me to sleep every time. I then remembered a children’s bible that my Grandmother had given me when I was younger. It was childish looking and had a picture of Jesus on the cover holding a lamb. I wanted to read the Bible so why not give this one a try. This Bible was a more modern translation called the Living Bible (TLB). This translation is paraphrased and intended to be readable. It was in this bible that I was able to read and comprehend amazing things about God and His words to His children and to everyone in Creation. The Bible is an amazing work. The contents are provocative and shocking. Many people assume they know what it contains however if you have never taken the time to read it then your assumptions are most likely wrong. I became excited about God and His word but there was not a chance that I as someone in High School was ever going to take that Children’s bible out of my room to be seen in public. Thankfully a friend gave me a student bible with the NIV translation. The version that I still love to read even today. King James is a literal translation of the original text and it is a translation the way people spoke in 1611. The Children’s Bible was great to casually read but TLB is a paraphrase that does not seek to keep the exact words of the original text. The NIV is a hybrid called “dynamic equivalent”. The goal of the translation is to keep it as accurate as possible to the original language while updating the grammar and word order to be more in line with the English of a modern reader. This version was immediately readable to me and I set upon a course to read it from start to finish like one would with any other book. Today I still love the NIV however I do not use it to study, or teach. For accuracy and seeking a literal translation I recommend the ESV or even the NKJV.

Listed here is a table that categorizes different popular translations or versions of the Bible so one can compare and contrast. Each version has a different purpose and should be used in the right context. I highly recommend the ESV for those looking to start reading the Bible.

Literal Translation Dynamic Equivalent Paraphrase
King James (KJV) New International (NIV) Living Bible (TLB)
New King James (NKJV) New American Bible (NAB) The Message (MSG)
New American Standard (NASB) New Revised Standard (NRSB)
English Standard Version (ESV) New Living (NLT)

Reading the Bible will change a Christian’s life. We as children of God cannot come into His presence and not be changed. God is Holy and he is powerful. Just reading what He has written leaves a mark. Moses when he was on Mount Sinai and interacting with God, like receiving the Ten Commandments, asked if he could see God more directly. God answered the request but He did so in a way that would not destroy Moses who is still a sinful man.

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:20-23 ESV

That is an amazing event for Moses to be close to God and yet not be consumed by the Holiness of God. We have similar access today through the words of God as he wanted them written in the Bible. Be made alive with God’s word. Come into His presence and hear what He has to say to you His child. If you are not His child hear what He has to say about being adopted and becoming a child of the King and Creator. While the encounter Moses had with God on the Mountain is amazing what is also amazing is the effect it left on Moses when he returns to the people of Israel after leaving the Mountain.

Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Exodus 34:30-33 ESV

Moses was altered and his face reflected God with whom he had been speaking. The same is true when we his children spend time reading and thinking about the words God has left for us. God’s word is a reflection of his nature and his words point us to God’s story for Creation. People will know you have been in the Bible and you will not be able to contain speaking to others about it.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV

Everything we are doing in this life now is preparation for life with God in eternity. John Piper in the video asks the question where else will we go. How else will we know who He is? The Bible, the words of God himself, are life to us. Do we love God enough to read what he had to say and be transformed by it?