Most of us think of slavery in terms of one man placing another man into bondage. Our minds are filled with images of men on ships against their will, being transported across vast oceans to distant lands where they will serve in chains for their entire life.
The horrors of this type of slavery is one of the greatest travesties of human life. No human being was made to be the servant of another against his will, nor to endure the brutality of servitude.
Slavery to fear, anxiety, and depression. There is slavery to sin that binds us to behavior that ruins our lives and the lives of others. There is slavery to materialism which takes our life from us as we seek to accumulate more and more, while feeling empty and unsatisfied.
There is one type of slavery that is good in every regard. It is the type of slavery that Jesus showed the world when He came to die for us. Though Jesus was God, He did not cling to His rights as God, but took the form of a slave and was born as a human being. Though He existed as God, forever, He humbled Himself for us and in obedience to righteousness—died for the whole world.
Slavery To Righteousness
A great deal of the New Testament was written by Paul while in chains at a Roman prison. Though men tried to bind him to a cell of hopelessness and fear, Paul wrote letters that were distributed all over the world. Today, we know a great deal about Jesus and all that He did, because Paul was in prison—falsely accused of things he had not done. At one point Paul wrote that everything that had happened to him had helped to spread the good news about Jesus. While in prison under chains, even the whole palace guard understood that he was there because of Christ. It was because of his imprisonment that most of the believers in Jesus, gained confidence and began to boldly speak about Jesus without fear.
While in prison, held against his will, Paul wrote words of instruction and encouragement to believers in Christ all over the world. Words that I read this morning in my Bible; words that gave me hope, encouragement, inspiration to live a life of righteousness. Paul often said that although we were once slaves to sin, now because of what Jesus has done for us, we should be slaves of righteousness.
Jesus said that anyone who truly wants to be great in this world, should become the servant of all. Paul wrote that although he was a free man, he made himself a slave to all so that he might win some to Christ. Under these parameters, slavery can be a really good thing.
Human Slavery Is Condemned By God
Some people who have not really read the whole Bible, develop the idea that that God of the Bible approves of slavery. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the texts that critics of God use in an attempt to impugn God and the Bible—for its alleged support of slavery—is found in the book of Leviticus.
These verses of scripture from Leviticus 25:44-46 were used during the Civil War to try and justify slavery, but they were not at all written for any other application except the Jews during their time, and only for the conquered enemies of the surrounding nations of Israel.
Leviticus 25:39-46, also describes the issue of a poor Jew who became the slave of another Jew due to their poverty (Leviticus 25:39-43). In these verses of scripture we see that God not condoning slavery, but giving instructions for how poverty stricken Jewish slaves should be treated. This type of slavery was an attempt to help the destitute and enable their survival. These individuals were not to be treated harshly, but as members of the family.
In Leviticus 23:44-46, people who were the enemies of the Jews who lived in the surrounding nations, who worshipped vile and perverse gods, who offered their children onto the fiery hot arms of Molech, ate raw meat and were know and the most debased people in that period of history; had murdered and pillaged the Jews from the time they entered that land. This instruction by God in Leviticus, was directed at these enemies of Israel—specifically how they should be treated as enemy combatants.
When the Jews came into that land, instead of destroying their enemies, they placed certain individuals into service. These persons deserved death because of their crimes and wickedness, but some were shown mercy and not killed; instead, placed into service. The Jews were to treat these persons with kindness—not to oppress them as the slaves had been treated in early America, or others who were placed into slavery around the world.
God’s Patience With Us
God does not condone the evil actions of people, but He also recognizes that because of the hardness of the human heart, there are some who will not obey God. We see this in the case of divorce with the Jews under Moses’ authority. God did not permit divorce, but the men would not obey, so Moses gave them a concession that they could write their wives a certificate of divorce, but then they must care for them and their children.
Jesus touched on this when the Pharisee’s asked Him why His teaching was in opposition to divorce, contradicting the laws of Moses. Jesus informed these men that “from the beginning, it was not so…” God never wanted a family broken by divorce, but Jesus said that Moses gave the Jews of that time a concession, “because of the hardness of their hearts.”
We see a similar situation with slavery. From the beginning, slavery was not approved by God, but Moses gave the men of that time, a concession in taking slaves from their enemies, because of the hardness of their hearts.
The Jews were not going to obey God and not take slaves from the surrounding nations they conquered, so God instructed them to treat these persons humanely, and with kindness. It is important when we read the Bible, to keep in mind, that God is dealing with difficult and often, hard-hearted people who are rebellious and stubborn. We see that despite the terrible behavior and rebellion of men, God is very patient with us and shows us forbearance in our stubbornness and resistance to His will. It is the kindness of God that ultimately lead us to repentance.
It is also important to remember that many of the laws that Moses gave the Jews during that time, were only for the Jews of that time and did not apply to any other generation. If you read the opening statement for Leviticus 25:1-2, it says: “And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:”
These instructions about slavery were given to the Jews who came into the land that was occupied by their enemies—people who were a vile, evil, and debased people.
When we examine God’s instructions to the Jews, we see that no Jew could ever enslave another Jew. They could only place the poor into service for six years, then release them. Even during this time, these indentured servants must be treated with love and kindness, like a member of their family. It was because of this kind treatment, that many slaves became a Doulos, in Greek, willing servants who wanted to remain in their masters house forever.
Slavery To Save Life
The four examples of slavery in the Bible that are for a good purpose, is seen first in the example of Jesus, as He was willing to give up His rights to become a servant to all of us and die for our sins. The second example we see in scripture is the type of indentured servitude that was common during the early history of the Jews, for the purpose of saving lives. Third, people who place their trust in Jesus as their Savior, are to become the servants of all other people on earth for the purpose of leading them to Christ. Fourth, the followers of Jesus are to make themselves slaves of righteousness in all their behavior and their words. In all cases, we see that God only permitted slavery for reasons of saving human life, not to bind men in chains and take their dignity and lives from them. Only human beings do this to other human beings. God never condones this kind of slavery, in fact, He condemns it in the strongest terms.
The slavery that God approves of is when those who love God, make themselves slaves of righteousness and servants to the world so that they can lay down their lives as Jesus has, and lead many to salvation.
Those who insist that the Bible is filled with examples where God approves of slavery, are not telling the truth. Sometimes this is due to their ignorance. Other times, these statements are designed to impugn God or those who love Him. Do your own research and you will see that what I have shared with you here regarding God’s view of slavery, is the truth.
 Philippians 2:6-9
 Philippians 1:12-14
 Romans 6:18
 Mark 9:35
 Matthew 19:8
 1 Corinthians 9:19
 Romans 2:4
 Exodus 21:2
 Exodus 21:5-6
Categories: A Servant, Alleged Contradictions, Be like Him, Contradictions in the Bible, Controversy, Following Jesus, Jesus is God, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, Slavery in the Bible, Speaking out against sin, Why Jesus had to die