TRANSFORMATION FOLLOWING CHRIST IN A MASTER-SERVANT RELATIONSHIP
Lay Pastor Wahyu Widodo
Johor, Sunday, December 9, 2018
A gap between a master and a servant is a common sight due to a fundamental difference – a servant feels worthless and submissive to his master while a master has authority over his servant in all things. This often triggers a gap between the two.
Being a master or a servant is not a matter of choice, but rather an absolute question of life’s calling. Both master and servant must be responsible for their respective positions for the sake of shared benefits. For that reason, a servant is to carry out all his obligations with good grace.
What does the Word of God advise servants and masters to do? Ephesians 6: 5-9 write, "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”
How is the position of a slave/servant or authorative master? The Bible shows that the position of slaves /servants and masters does not have to last for a lifetime. For example, Joseph was sold as a slave and for twenty shekels of silver. His dignity just vanished; he no longer had the slightest thing to wish for. He was competely subject to the buyer, an Ishmaelite (Genesis 37: 27-28; 36). But Joseph did not live as a slave all his life. Gradually, his life changed for the better. In the end, he was no longer a servant loyal to his master. Instead, he became a trusted ruler and decision maker in the Egyptian government. Joseph, a Hebrew slave, was trusted and placed second-in command during the reign of Pharaoh, king of Egypt (Genesis 39 - 41). The dramas in Joseph’s life clearly showed that God had a role in his life to manifest His great plan in an effort to save many souls in the land of Egypt and surroundings.
Admittedly, to understand the relationship between servants and masters in real life has not been easy. For example:
• Joseph's brothers were suspicious of the money in their sacks and the power before them. They feared to fall into the trap and to be eventually taken for slaves in Egypt (Genesis 43: 17-18).
• Jesus taught, telling the parable of the lost child to explain how material desires could destroy a life, turning a child into a useless slave (Luke 15: 17-18).
Actually, the existence of slaves/servants in God's plan was intended to bring salvation for the better. Also, the status of a slave did not last a lifetime. When the right time (jubilee year) came, they were
freed and rejoined their families as written in Leviticus 25: 39-41, "And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers.”
Therefore, it’s no exaggeration to say that servants are to obey their master with fear and trembling. On the other hand, masters are to wisely treat their servants without violence. A good, ongoing relationship between a master and a servant creates a harmonious, family atmosphere that envelopes the whole household, including the servant who lives with them. It is possible that a servant has a better dignity and may become his master’s colleage. Paul, for example, respectfully asked Philemon to welcome Onesimus again, not as a servant but as a beloved brother and fellow believer (Philemon 1:16-17).
Christ is the role model of an obedient Servant who fully obeyed His Father (Philippians 2: 8). He carried out the Father’s great task and accomplished His great commission in regard to the salvation of mankind. Despite His fear and trembling, He did His job perfectly well. He finished off all His tasks in the Father’s love that transcends all sins of mankind. He even appointed us His friends, not servants, in order to know all God's plans conveyed to Him (John 15: 13-17).
A servant is to obey his master with fear and trembling as to Christ, that is to say, to be responsible for completing his task in the sincerity of his love. The master on his part is also to do the same thing and keep threats away, knowing that God does not judge people by their looks (servants or masters). Thus, both servants and free people who do good will receive God’s rewards.
Our Lord does not play favorites. His command is to love one another regardless of status. That way, we will remain firmly bound as a holy family freed from darkness so as to live in His light (Ephesians 5: 6-10). Amen.