What Does Slavery Look Like?
3rd Sunday in Lent – B LSB #865
Text – Exodus 20:2
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
WHAT DOES SLAVERY LOOK LIKE?
Here in the United States, the selling of human beings is no longer as prevalent & public as it was during the slave trade of the 17 & 1800s. I say it that way because it still goes on out of sight in the underground world of sex trafficking. In either case, when Americans hear the word slavery, what comes to mind is a horrific & inhumane practice.
As Exodus 1 describes, it was just as bad thousands of years ago in the land of Egypt:
Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us & are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, & if war breaks out, they will join our enemies & fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom & Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied & spread, & the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar & make bricks & do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah & Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” (1:8-16 NLT)
It is certainly correct to answer the question, “What does slavery look like?” by saying it is the horrific & inhumane treatment of one group of human beings by another. And yet, as correct as that answer may be it doesn’t cover all the bases. There are other spot-on answers to the question. Can you identify who the slaveholder is in the following list of circumstances?
A comedian, by the name of Flip Wilson, caused a lot of laughter with his act as he began using the line, “The devil made me do it.” However valid & funny it was in the world of comedy, the line has zero substance in the world of God’s creation. Satan cannot ‘make’ us do anything. The Word of God makes it clear, “Resist the devil, & he will flee from you.”
Moreover, Satan doesn’t need to ‘make’ us sin, because Jesus taught, “…out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19 ESV) Sin is rooted in us from the moment we are conceived. For some good news, Jesus also taught that no one, including the devil, will snatch us out of the Father’s hand.
What does that mean? It tells us that Lucifer cannot force us into slavery. He needs willing human participants. The source of much sadness, even to God, is that the world is full of willing participants. Jesus spoke to that issue in Matthew 23:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets & stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, & you were not willing!” (v. 37 ESV) For the most part, Jesus’ own people were not willing to have God rescue them, yet they willingly participated in the slavery that Satan offered. He well disguises it. While revealing something of what slavery looks like, by writing about false prophets, St. Paul throws the devil in as well:
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ESV)
Their end, which is eternity in hell, corresponds to their deeds. Their deeds are that of seducing men, women & children into a slavery that does not end with this life. The devil often disguises that as the pursuit of things that are only of this world. It’s not wrong to want a clean house or car, but it is wrong to enslave yourselves to them.
It’s not sinful to desire a college degree or even a certain type of car, but it is slavery if your pursuit of them pushes your heavenly Father out of the way. “Seek 1st the kingdom of God & His righteousness, & all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV) What does slavery look like? Jesus did not mince words when He warned us concerning the danger:
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one & love the other, or he will be devoted to the one & despise the other. You cannot serve God & money.” (Matthew 6:24 ESV) And there is no life apart from our Creator, no matter how clean your house is or which TV star your significant other may resemble.
Are people being enslaved, in our day, by their smartphones or the various forms of social media? How about the 24/7 news cycle? What about sporting events at all ages & all levels of society? People are desperately seeking to be connected. They desperately search for significance. They no longer go on crusades to Jerusalem, but they do crusade for & against political parties & for following their passion. In seeking the freedom to define what ‘they’ think they should be people created by God are ignoring His design for their lives. In so doing, they are becoming slaves to their passions & to false prophets disguised as servants of righteousness. For any of us who do not turn back to our Creator, our end will correspond to our deeds.
If we stop rejecting the will of the Holy Spirit then our end will correspond to the deeds of Jesus, who lived the perfectly righteous life in our place & on our behalf. The eternal Son of God entered the confines of time & space to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly specifically because He knew we would die trying.
If we’re honest, most of the time, even God’s children look at the Ten Commandments as if they were designed to take our freedom away. We think of them like we do the lines on this page. We see them as taking away our freedom to ‘color’ wherever, & however, we want to. Because of our sinful nature, we cannot help but look at them in that manner.
And yet, our heavenly Father has given the commandments as a blessing. How do we reconcile these conflicting viewpoints? Galatians 5:1 gets us on the path: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, & do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (ESV) It is only after we’ve been set free that we can see the commandments as God intended us to see.
Relating it to the coloring page, until the Holy Spirit creates faith in your heart, you can never color between the lines. You can never live as God’s child. You can never appreciate, let alone perfectly keep, the Ten Commandments. Yet, false prophets will tell you, “In order to become a child of God, first you must train yourself to color between the lines.”
The Good News about Jesus Christ is not only that He has colored between the lines for you. The Good News is also that once the Holy Spirit has created your faith in Christ, then, in Christ, you finally do have the ability to color between the lines. In other words, in Christ Jesus you have the ability to do the good works God prepared in advance for you to do. That’s simply the teaching of John 15: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me & I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (v. 4b-5 ESV)
Apart from Christ, all we have is our sinful nature, but that nature is not only the source of our sin. Having a sinful nature means that every single thought I have begins with me & ends with me. Apart from Jesus I can do nothing. In Christ, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” including appreciating the Ten Commandments as a blessing from God.
The 2nd person of the Holy Trinity took on human flesh so He could rescue us from sin. Jesus did so in order that we could once again color between the lines, so we could once again live as children of our heavenly Father. The Ten Commandments describe how God’s children live; giving us boundaries or lines within which to live our lives freely & in a healthy manner.
Without faith in Jesus as Savior, our lives are chaos & we live destructively as slaves to the devil. Unbelief is what slavery looks like. Hell is where unbelief shall reign for all of eternity. Like the Ten Commandments, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)
It’s time to consider, what does slavery look like in your own personal life? Pray for your Lord & Savior’s guidance. Repent & believe the Good News, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. In Christ, your saintly nature understands & appreciates the blessing of God’s commandments. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 James 4:7 ESV
 Philippians 4:13 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet