Am I a servant or am I a slave? I am both. It isn’t an “either/or” issue. I am afraid; however, we ignore the slave part a lot. We love to talk about being a servant. Books, videos, sermons, songs and more. We even created this new thing called a “servant-leader”.
Jesus makes it clear I am to be a slave. I can be a slave to sin or I can be a slave to Jesus. It is my choice. As a disciple, I am not above Jesus as my teacher and I am not above Jesus as my master. If they persecute Jesus, they will persecute me.
Does it matter? Yes, it matters a great deal. Being a slave is the essence of the life of a disciple of Jesus. It is not to be ignored. It is essential.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” I Matthew 10:24-25
Here are the key ideas:
- “Disciple” means “learner” and therefore complements “teacher.” The word translated “master” also means “Lord,” and Jesus has often appeared as the Lord. So as applied to Jesus’ disciples, “slaves” stresses subordination to Jesus as their Master [Lord] even more than “disciples” stresses subordination to him as their teacher.
- “Like his teacher” and “like his master” have to do with similarity in the suffering of persecution, and “[It’s] enough” means that Jesus’ disciples shouldn’t try to outdo him by avoiding martyrdom at all costs, as Jesus did not.
- What is the concept? So there is this concept of slavery in the scripture that has been generally hidden to the English reader.
- The word “slave” is the most important, all-encompassing, and clarifying word to describe a disciple of Jesus.
- It is used in the words of Jesus and the apostles constantly, and yet whenever a modern day disciple is in view, it’s not translated “slave.”
- The word is δοῦλος (dŏulŏs). Consider this from Jesus “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” (Mark 10:44) Jesus has much more to say on this. Let him who has ears to hear, listen.
- Have you heard this word? Maybe you haven’t. Discussions of Greek words seems very “theological” and geeky.
- The word is δοῦλος (dŏulŏs). In the Greek, that word means “slave” — never as anything but “slave.” It doesn’t mean “servant”; it doesn’t mean “worker”; it doesn’t mean “hired hand”; it doesn’t mean “helper.”
- There are six or seven Greek words that mean “servant” in some form.
- δοῦλος (dŏulŏs) never means “servant.” A servant is someone hired to do something.
- The slave is someone owned. Big difference — huge difference — and yet all through the New Testament the word “slave” is masked by the translation “servant,” or some form of the word “servant.” Truly a remarkable thing.
- Just a couple of illustrations to show you how important it is.
- Jesus said, “No man can serve two”…What?…“masters.” “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be a slave [δοῦλος (dŏulŏs)] to God and wealth.”
- Well, you could if you were a servant, right? You could serve two people, couldn’t you? You could have a day job and a night job. A lot of people work for more than one person, but you can’t be a slave to two masters because you can only be owned by one.
- Jesus is teaching the disciples about the nature of faith. He uses an example that will speak to many of his listeners. Suppose, he says, you have a doulos (slave) plowing or keeping sheep. When he comes in at the end of the day, do you tell him to sit right down at table to eat and drink? Obviously not.
- You would command him to make supper for you, then serve at table, and after that, then he can go and eat.
- You masters don’t thank a doulos (slave) for doing what he is ordered to do.
- So you disciples too, you should likewise only say, “We are unworthy douloi (slaves); we have only done what was our duty.”