Sunday 5 August 2012

What Jesus Thought About Slavery

Here's Jesus's opinion of slavery, according to whoever wrote the Gospel According to Luke:

Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

Luke 12:41-48

So, slaves have their rations at the allotted time, just like feeding the livestock, and if you leave one in charge of the others, there is a good chance they'll abuse the others, eat your food and get drunk, because it goes without saying that you can't trust a slave. No protection from the law for slaves; no right to fair trial. No value as human beings and no right to respect and human dignity.

If they know what the slave owner wants but don't have it ready they are to be beaten severely but if they didn't know what he wanted, they can be let off with a not so severe beating. So, no protection from assault for slaves. Their fate is at the whim of their owner.

Never once does Jesus condemn slavery or give any indication that he saw anything wrong with it. Never once does he point out the moral repugnance and inhumanity of owning another human being in the first place, let alone the denial of human dignity it entails. No where is there any indication of any principle of equal worth as human beings or of all people being created equal.

The fact that Jesus never condemned slavery and that slavery is only mentioned incidentally and not condemned by the 'Ten Commandments' or anywhere else in the Bible, was used to justify the slave trade in the first place.

If you are a descendant of a former slave, biblical passages like this were almost certainly used to justify slavery and the inhumane treatment of your recent ancestors. Your great great grandparents were treated like this by people who quoted Jesus to justify it.

Was Jesus right to say when slaves should be beaten by their owner, how severely slaves should be flogged and to never condemn slavery?

If so, why do you think slavery is wrong?

If not, why do you worship someone who taught that slavery was okay and on what basis do you justify holding different moral values to Jesus?

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  1. Wise words. The slavery in China is the challenge now.

  2. Its the special pleading to the application of American or UK prisoner rights in 1stcentury Judea under Roman occupation that gets me.
    However that great Christian politician William Wilberforce managed to abolish the slave trade.

    1. Are you saying owning slaves and killing and beating them at will was not immoral in 1st century Judea, but it is now?

      Er... doesn't that mean that we have higher morals than Jesus, or have we gone backwards in your view?

      Do you have any thoughts to offer on why William Wiberforce decided Jesus was wrong about slavery and how to treat slaves, or how he concluded that his morals were higher than those of Jesus?

  3. Ah! The old 'context' ploy, eh?

    In what context is it okay to own slaves and kill and beat them at will, please?

  4. Your missing my point completely. How could a slave be killed then be apportioned with unbelievers. This is judgement day he is talking about. You persist in apportiong slavery to christ when he himself is identified as a slave in the NT.His audience in this dialogue is servants and slaves.He offers no justification for slavery or promotes it after all he is relying on charity himself. He does apportion punishment to the wicked slave/servant in the story. Because they abused others and their power.You seem to miss that 1century story tellers can make use of examples of everyday life....under Roman Occupation
    Jesus ministry after all existed under the radar of that occupation and Roman justice and law which included servitude.Then again I'm a slave to my employer and money or I starve.Jesus ministry is about knowing God whatever your social status and wherever you are at. You will find that Wilberforce Beliefs were against the tide of rich enlightened land owners and industrialists of his era.St Paul Exorts those believers who are in servitude to obey their masters not as justification for slavery but to show an example of christlikeness to their "masters". He also exorts Philemon to receive his runaway "slave" back as no longer as slave but as an equal. So once again certain people like to take out of context ancient texts and apply selective cherry picking, quote mining to try and make it say things it doesn't for their agenda.

    1. >How could a slave be killed then be apportioned with unbelievers. <

      The word is 'assigned' not 'apportioned'. The clue was the letters in it.

      I wonder how Jesus managed before you came along to explain to us what he was talking about. Do you think he just forgot to mention that he was talking about judgement day and not about how to and when to kill and beat your slaves?

      BTW, you seem to have forgotten something yourself. You haven't explained why Jesus never condemned slavery but spoke of it as though it was a perfectly acceptable practice, including the arbitrary execution and beating of slaves, and the assumption that they couldn't be trusted.

  5. Ah the blinkers are still on i see.You fail to see that the particular servant/slave was beating up his colleagues and abusing his authority.Jesus uses slaves as his subject matter for the story.It is not a policy statement on slavery. He himself took on the form of a slave and came to serve and not be served.
    I take it you do not subscribe to any sanctions for evil people which is what the story is about. Only in your world would the application of good v evil be drawn to the social status of the evil one and how unfair their punishment was. For in this case the slave/servant assaulted and robbed his colleagues. On his day of judgment he got his recompense.

    1. When will you be explaining why Jesus never once condemned slavery and, from how he tells us how to treat them, clearly saw nothing wrong with slavery and thought it was okay to kill and beat them at will?

      Or are we supposed to ignore what Jesus said and pretend he never said it, because you find it so embarrassing?

    2. BTW, I quoted Jesus's words exactly so people can see the difference between what the author of Luke says he said and your hilariously twisted and perverse account.

      If you need to misrepresent the Bible and Jesus in order to defend them, are either of them worth taking any notice of?

    3. I wonder why so many of the comments here are anonymous. Could it be that people are too ashamed of needing to lie about Jesus and the Bible in order to defend them to say who they are?

  6. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.
    It would appear he had the conversation your looking for with St Paul(2nd time of mention since you were to caught up in your evolved rage to notice).

    However if u want I will take up your concerns about secular morality up with the Chinese ambassador and allies in Pyong Yang
    Morgan anonymous

  7. Jesus Spoke in Parables so taking anything 100% Literately when Reading preaching Parables can lead to abuse of power. As it can suit many Greedy ego driven men. But then again maybe that is the point in some fashion for greedy men to think they are superior. when in fact they miss the point! (WOE To THEM) Jesus refers to the Master meaning God & the gifts portioned out by God, for all is Gods to give & take. God is the Judge Not men. Though men, in there Folly believe, they are superior! no where is this more clear than in a "one" only view of Biblical texts so as to suit there egos & Purse, and IN Abuse of Power. In there blindness they do not see That Abuse is abuse FOR MANY SAW THEMSELVES AS SUPERIOR & sadly still do.. sometimes quoting scriptures Self rightfulness.. blindness..

    1. So who, in that analogy are the slaves left in charge of the others, and why does Jesus think they are a good thing and should be appointed by God? And why, if that analogy holds, can an omniscient god arrive home to find those he left in charge have let him down?

      Is God a poor judge of character?

  8. This is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the words. God doesn't come home surprised that his servant failed him. This analogy applies to man, not God. This is a lesson in responsibility. Jesus encourages a beneficial relationship of respect on both sides of the equation. Your definition of slavery is abuse in return for hard labor. That is exactly what Jesus is discouraging here.

    1. Jesus also shows he has no problem with the practice of slavery, with a slave owner arbitrarily killing and beating his slave with no right to free trial or right of appeal. In fact, the whole tenor of the piece shows that Jesus, or whoever wrote this myth, took slavery and slave abuse for granted with absolutely no moral qualms whatsoever.

      I can understand your embarrassment and desire to avoid the issue by ignoring the questions the article posed.

  9. I stumbled across these posts and I think the difficulty here is that the word translated "slavery" in the Bible is not what I think of as slavery, being raised in the U.S. in the 20th century. We're asking someone 2,000 years ago to condemn something that didn't exist in His day (at least in His context). I found an interview with a historian explaining the difference. It is a long interview, but worth reading if you're really looking for answers:

    1. There is no difficulty, but thanks for your help.

      The Bible is very explicit about how slaves are the property of their owners, how they may be bought and sold, when they can be beaten and killed, etc. They are nowhere regarded as full human beings with full human rights.

      And of course, in the verses I quoted, Jesus expresses no objection to their status or treatment and appears to accept slavery as a fact of life requiring no comment, least of all condemnation.

      I can understand modern Christians being embarrassed by the Bible and by Jesus's equanimity over slavery (though not so in earlier times when these verses were quoted extensively to justify slavery and the money being made from it) but I'm surprised you don't seem to have read it.


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