Is God Good? (Part Four: Why didn’t Jesus abolish slavery?)


The slavery question is complex, but I want to share a few thoughts regarding why Jesus didn’t outright abolish slavery and why slavery is not advocated against in the New Testament.

Throughout scripture, God typically works from the inside out. He’s a God that cares that the cup is clean first on the inside and then on the outside. Outside appearance (if one seems good) is much less important than the heart of a person (if ones thoughts and desires are good). When it comes to slavery, it is the same idea.

How can we transform a corrupt and wicked system? Can we do it by forcing people to follow set rules and patterns? This almost never works. I don’t think many people would advocate slavery as an ethical system irregardless of their views on slavery for productivity or economical reasons. Yet, various forms of slavery have and do exist. It seems such tendencies of selfishness and ownership go hand in hand with human nature. And if this is the case–if slavery is a manifestation of unethical thoughts and desires within certain people–then the solution is to change those thoughts and desires. Would it be possible to transform the hearts of the masters to such an extent that they willingly set their slaves free? If so, this would be more efficient than forcing abolition.

So, instead of coming to the masters (the rich, the intelligent, the beautiful, the healthy, the prosperous), Jesus comes to the slaves (the poor, the weary, the beaten, the imprisoned, the prostitutes, those in physical slavery). Instead of dictating a system of rules to the ones who lead the world, He comes to the ones who are owned and weak and weary within the system. And what would you say to those ones? Slavery is wrong, it should be abolished? This is obvious. No need to tell the slave that he shouldn’t be owned–he knows that already. Instead, Jesus gave to the slaves and the lowly–to everyone who would listen–a better gift: an inner freedom.

Jesus did free the slaves, but He freed them from feeling oppressed. He promises that in Him is fullness of joy, perfect love, unprecedented peace, and hope that one day the corrupt system will be overturned in a physical way when He comes again to rule as King of the earth. This is an inside out process. The slaves receive freedom beyond what their masters are capable of experiencing. Oh the irony that those who think they are free are not while those who are physically oppressed can be free! But then the slaves can pass this freedom on to the masters, and as the masters are renewed internally they can begin to change the system. In this way, the weak minister to the strong. It is one of the great biblical paradoxes.

The fullness of this process has not yet come. God is still working to grant freedom to new hearts. But a time is coming when everyone picks a side–for God or against Him–and when that time comes, the Lord Himself will return to earth to free us in a physical way from the corruption of the world systems.

??Be sure to also read Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this series.


5 thoughts on “Is God Good? (Part Four: Why didn’t Jesus abolish slavery?)

  1. John

    Thank you for your posts, here and on the other three links. I’ve felt a heavy heart pondering these questions (today, it was the slavery question – but also I liked your analogy about God putting people out of there (unknown to them) suffering (in the example: Sinful horrible lives that they would have passed down to their offspring).
    I’ve done a lot of reading today and I found your four, short, succinct and well thought out posts inspiring – my heart feels a lot lighter now.
    May Jesus Christ bless you and strengthen you to continue your good work.

  2. Misotheist

    This is a hot mess. This contradicts the OT God who went directly to Pharoah and said let my people go. He didn’t go to the slaves and change their hearts. There were many people who suffered brutally to the hands of a greedy corrupt master who didn’t change their heart and used the same bible to keep generations enslaved in America. I guess that Ol heart planned failed because it took a civil war to stop slavery so I guess Jesus heart plan get credit for that too. How could the Lord look down the timeline of life on this planet and how slavery destroyed a race of people and still allowed it. He could have issued a 12th commandment in the OT or even said in the NT, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF AND BY THE WAY I HATE SLAVERY. He sure didn’t fail to mention he hated homosexuality.

    • Slavery is awful, and it’s not okay in any form (racial slavery, sex trafficking, corrupt rulers…our world is still a mess of problems and prejudices). I believe God’s people are to stand up for truth against the corrupt systems of the world (similar to the Israelites fighting to take back the land God had promised them—as a physical process despite the spiritual promises).

      The church has been full of historical atrocities, and that does not mean God nor the Bible is justifying those wrong theologies and actions. I imagine Jesus weeping along with us at the tragedies within our history—especially of those done in His name that prevent people from drawing close to Him. But I also know that when I have experienced personal trials, He has comforted me within them.

      I would argue that the commandment to LOVE in both OT/NT includes being against slavery. Slavery is just about the opposite of what love looks like. And the Israelites were very familiar with this burden (therefore, the Bible often addresses the slave more than the master…in fact, there is the spiritual parallel of slavery to sin…). I think it was God in Moses that gave him the justice to defend his Jewish brother—but I don’t think killing the Egyptian was what God had in mind at that particular moment; later he is able to defend his people with God’s direction and protection. When we look for whether God is against slavery we see it in how He deals with His people.

      (I do not see homosexuality and slavery as comparable since slavery is very much against love, while homosexuality is an attempt to discover intimacy and love outside of God’s design.)

      The point I was trying to make in the initial article was not to de-emphasize slavery, but to reveal that we need to renew our minds (understand that slavery is wrong) before we can act appropriately (physically confront the wickedness of slavery within our social systems). The Jewish Messiah is a conquering warrior and benevolent King who will rule over our political systems—but he is also a humble and suffering servant. Jesus came as the suffering servant FIRST to break off the spiritual slavery we have to sin. We then join Him in repairing the world—making way for His ultimate reign. The Jewish community continues a focus on Tikkun Olam, whereas the Christian community is sometimes slower to awaken to social justice issues (with exception of some denominations who excel in this). When Jesus returns, there will be a physical end to the wickedness of slavery, and every other oppression and evil thing.

      I don’t think God’s plan has failed at all. I do think humanity needs to arise to meet Him in His mission—and that’s where we are now. We are the vessels to instigate change—and that change will not come successfully through manipulation, but through the revelation of what real love looks like.

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