SERVANTS AND MASTERS
Ephesians 6:5-9 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him.
In biblical days, slavery took on various forms of servitude. Due to the sin of Ham, the family of Canaan, his son, was cursed by Noah and required to be servants to the families of Shem and Japheth (Gen. 9:20-27). King Solomon enslaved the people of Canaan that were captured by the Israelites, as his bondservants (1 Kings 9:20-21). In parables, Jesus spoke of servants of householders as a form of slavery (Matt. 13:24-30 & 21:33-44). The well-known epistle to Philemon tells of his run-away slave, Onesimus,
Slaves were often referred to in the bible as servants, bondmen, or bondmaidens. Slaves could be purchased, as Joseph was, when he was sold into slavery by his brothers for 20 shekels of silver (Gen 37:28). People from heathen nations were purchased as slaves by the Israelites (Lev. 25:44). Often captives taken in war were made servants by their captors (Num. 31:9-12). Those that could not financially pay their debts, often made themselves slaves, in order to repay their obligations, with the length of servitude dependant on the amount of debt owed (Ex. 21:2-6). Genesis 17:12-13 indicates that children born to slaves also became slaves and the property of their master. These, and other references in the bible, tell us that enslavement could take place by purchase, to repay a debt, by conquest, or by birth. We also read of slaves being given to another (Gen. 29:24), and inherited (Lev. 25:46).
Slavery was extremely widespread during the Old Testament era, both within Godly households, as well as all among all known heathen nations throughout the world. It was probably the most common method of securing laborers for both agricultural and domestic needs of property owners. Servitude was sanctioned by God when both the rights of servants and the rights of masters were recognized and obeyed, in carrying out this relationship. Slavery existed but did not appear as widespread when the Christian Dispensation began. There was no New Testament commandment that eliminated slavery, but the gospel of Christ that taught love, equality, peace and kindness, has slowly but surely, eliminated the cruelty and harshness slavery exhibited in many societies, and has finally eliminated it within most Christian nations throughout the world.
The servant/master relationship, primarily through Christian influences, has, for the most part, been replaced by that of employee/employer labor services. Whether the relationship is between masters and slaves, householders and servants, employers and employees, contractors and vendors, this is not the true issue in the lesson text. Rather it is the right conduct and service that is required by God between the two parties. The service of anyone to another is to be performed, and payment, or reward is to be given, as agreed between the parties. Written or verbal, there is always a "contract" mutually agreed to, that is to be fulfilled. There is to be no slackness in services rendered, no cheating, defrauding, or dishonesty. "Full measure" is to be given with no "shortchanging." For their services, those that properly perform assigned duties, are to be treated with dignity, treated fairly, and are to be given full payment agreed to, for their services without unusual delay.
Why? Because this lesson text says that God demands this relationship to be conducted in this manner. Whether you are a slave, servant, employee, or vendor, it is God's will that you to discharge your responsibilities with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. All labor and services to another are to be rendered as if rendered directly for Christ. Again, ask yourself, why? Because, while on earth, we are all servants of Christ - He is our taskmaster. And, whether you are a master, householder, employer, or contractor, you are also servants of Christ. Whether servant or master, know this - your Master also is in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with Him. All are equal in His sight!