“All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.”
We don’t have slavery in the United States today–at least, not in so many words (though segregation definitely still exists, and some people might consider their jobs forms of slavery!)–but I think we can still apply verses about slaves and masters to our lives, because we do, in fact, serve others, and are called to do so. God’s law makes us servants. These verses go a little in depth about how we should do it. I might also point out that the Bible doesn’t demand that all slaves immediately be freed upon their master’s conversion to the faith, though I won’t talk any more about that because I don’t want to start a media war. Paul was instructing Timothy in these things because ministers should preach not only a Christian’s general duties, but also specific relationships between the different people in our faith-family.
Y’all have probably learned by now that I like to find the meaning behind all the words, which is why I really enjoy using Matthew Henry’s Commentary to study with. The phrase “under the yoke” reminds me of oxen pulling a plow or a wagon, and I never envision them standing still. The same thing applies to us when we are contracted to work. When we go to work, we pick up our own “yoke” of responsibilities that we bear for the day. The word “yoke” implies both subjugation AND labor–slaves (and the working class) were meant to work, not to sit around. My working experience showed me that not a whole lot of people take this seriously, and I think it’s kind of rare for someone to really, truly WORK when they’re at work, without taking unscheduled breaks, which is all the more reason for Christians to put their shoulders to it and show the world that no people group in the world works harder than us. (You can consider that a very calm rallying cry.)
These two verses are all about how slaves should act toward their masters, so I suppose I should get into that before I ramble on forever about the values of hard work. Slaves (and us) were supposed to treat their masters (and our bosses) as if they were worthy of full respect and obedience, whether or not their master actually deserved it. I think that’s a really interesting and world-shaking way to work, because, as I’m sure all you adults are very well aware, a lot of people don’t really like their bosses and they don’t show them any respect, though of course they obey because otherwise they’ll get fired (probably). They might be polite enough to their boss’s face, but they definitely don’t show respect in the lunchroom or when speaking to fellow employees. But to respect your boss even when he’s not around? That is pretty radical, and it’s exactly what Paul is telling Timothy’s people and us to do, because if Christian slaves were disobedient, it would reflect badly on the God they–and we–serve. Our job is to shine His light to the world and lead others to Him, but how will others want to come if they see us acting badly?
If a slave’s master was a Christian, the slave should be all the more obliged to serve his master well, and why wouldn’t you? I mean, isn’t it fantastic to be around other Christians and to serve them? We should serve them even better because of the brotherly love we have for them. You feel good serving all people, but it feels especially great when they’re your faith-family.