Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.
When we think of slavery, most of us I suspect first think of the Atlantic slave trade. We should of course be glad that that time in our history is long gone. But the danger is that we make the mistake of living as if slavery itself was completely eradicated as it no longer seems to be a day-to-day reality for us.
We occasionally hear in the news stories of so called ‘modern day slavery’, and people trafficking, and it is of course right that we make every effort to end this scourge of our time too.
However, this too is something far removed from most of our realities.
Much closer to home however is the so-called ‘gig economy’. Not slavery perhaps, but insecure employment where workers on extremely low pay, irregular hours, and no employment rights, try to make a living knowing if they do not ‘obey their masters’ there will be no work for them and another will simply take their place. This work does suit some as ‘pocket money’ to be earned flexibly around their primary commitments. But for an increasing number of people this kind of work has become their only source of income, without which they wouldn’t survive.
May our eyes be opened to ‘slavery’ all around us, when buying a drink, having takeaway delivered, or ordering an online taxi.
Generous God, We know everything we have comes from you, and what may seem like the fruits of our labour comes to us as much through good fortune as our endeavours.
We pray for those who work just as hard, whose material needs are just as many, who do not receive just reward for their labour, who are trapped in relative poverty and have little choice but to ‘obey their masters’. Amen.
The Rev’d Mike Walsh is a Special Category Minister in Chorlton, South Manchester.