5 – The Words of Jesus on Slaves

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A good and faithful slave actively uses the assets and the gifts given to him by God, while a lazy and wicked slave does not use the assets and the gifts given to him by God.

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Our Lord Jesus Christ used the illustration of a slave(s) (duolos) in order to teach important points in his parables and stories. These parables and stories are not necessarily direct teaching on the subject of the Slaves-of-God, but they do explain what Jesus thought and understood about the role and duties of a slave (duolos), which in turn affected how his Apostles later used this term in their writing about being Slaves-of-God.

When asked about the signs of the End-of-the-Age, Jesus gave his disciples a long dissertation using several parables in Matthew 24 and 25. Jesus taught that no one knows the day and the hour when the Son-of-Man shall return in judgment. Then Jesus gave an example of how his followers should prepare for his return in the Parable of the Faithful Servant, literally the faithful slave (duolos). The slave is faithful and wise if the slave keeps watch for his master, if the slave is careful with his master’s property in his absence, and if the slave properly treats all of the other slaves under his authority as they wait for the master’s return. Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-46.

Further in the dissertation on the End-of-the-Age, Jesus tells a Parable of the Talents. Three slaves are each given a sum of money by their master; one receives ten talents, another receives five talents, and the third receives one talent. The two slaves who wisely used and invested the money given to them by the master are called “good and faithful” slaves. The one slave who does not use and invest the money given to him by his master and instead buries the money for safekeeping is called a “wicked and lazy” slave, even though the slave returned the original money back to his master.
Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27

When James and John asked Jesus if they could sit one on his right and one on his left when Jesus comes into his glory, the other disciples took exception. Jesus used the opportunity to teach them about what it takes to be in charge and have a high place in the Kingdom-of-God. Jesus said that unlike rulers and high officials in the sinful world, whoever wants to be great among his followers must be the slave (duolos) of all. Jesus then gives himself as the supreme example, although he was the Messiah, God come in the flesh, yet he came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:35-45

Jesus said to the Jews that whoever held on to his teachings would know the truth and the truth would set them free. We understand this means free of the entanglements and consequences of sin. The Jews became upset and asserted that they were Children-of -Abraham, and therefore they were slaves (duolos) to no one. (Does this sound familiar?) Jesus replied that everyone who sins is a slave (duolos) to sin. Only if they were set free from sin by the Son would they be truly free. Jesus goes on to say that slaves of sin do the work of Devil. Only those set free from sin by the Son do the work of God. John 8:31-47

In the Upper Room during the Last Supper, Jesus taught his disciples by words and deeds using the example of a slave. Jesus stripped off his outer clothes and washed the feet of his followers, the task of the slave. Jesus then tells them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no slave is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:1-17

What is in a name? Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. After the meal, during the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus said, “you are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves (duolos), because a slave does not know his master’s business. … This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:14-17 And yet as we noted earlier, Peter and John, who were in the room that night and heard these words of Jesus, nevertheless referred to themselves as the Slaves-of-Christ until their deaths.

As we review the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus taught a great deal about the duties of a slave. The slave is not above his master. The faithful and wise slave keeps watch for his master and takes care of the assets entrusted to him by his master. The good and faithful slave invests and uses the assets given to him by the master to further the plans of his master. The wicked and lazy slave does not use or invest the assets given to him by his master. The slave with a high position serves the slaves with a low position. While the Lord Jesus will never treat us like slaves, we must never forget that indeed we are slaves.

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Discussion Questions:

1. Read Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-46. What makes for a faithful and wise slave?

2. Read Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27. What makes for a good and faithful slave? What makes for a wicked and lazy slave?

3. What assets did God give you, and how are you currently using them?

4. In Mark 10:35-45 and John 13:1-17 Jesus both calls and demonstrates how his servants are to treat one another. How important is this? In what ways are you serving or could you serve other believers?

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