Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

A Slave by Choice


Slave Cabins in Tennessee by Flickr User denisbin, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Slave Cabins in Tennessee by Flickr User denisbin, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

There are a lot of definitions for slavery. These definitions include work bondage, and they also include excessive dependence or devotion to something. But for all of the definitions, the antonym is the same: freedom. So, if slavery is the opposite of freedom, why are so many preoccupied with it? From fashion styles, to jewelry, to names of entertainers, people like to don the persona of being a slave, but I imagine that would be different if they couldn’t undo it at will.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:39 through Leviticus 25:46, we read of those who are so poor, they must sell themselves and their families into servitude. But God speaks to those who would own them and reminds them that because they were slaves before, they must not treat their fellow countrymen as slaves. God tells the owners that If they purchase a poor person and his family, they must treat them as employees or tenants. At the year of jubilee, both the slave and his family will be free and will return to the land that is their ancestral possession.

God then tells the children of Israel that they may buy male and female slaves from the surrounding countries, and they may also buy the children of foreigners that live in their own land. In addition, they may bequeath those slaves to their children, and from those groups, they may always take their slaves. And then God reminds them to never treat their brothers from Israel harshly.

In the image above, the slave cabins actually look better than what some people live in now, especially if you compare them to those who live in cardboard boxes. I’m certain some extremely poor people would sell themselves in slavery in exchange for a real roof over their heads, especially with a private spot of land, fences, and front porches. The photographer states that the cabins were actually occupied until 1977, and a commenter asked who was in them. When the photographer said that poor blacks lived in them, the commenter replied that they should know they did not have to live that way since 1865.

The ignorance in the commenter’s statement tells me that she has never had to go completely without, and that she doesn’t understand being poor. Just because legal slavery was outlawed, does not mean that suddenly everything started flowing in a positive direction for the slaves. If they had good owners, there were probably slaves that would rather have continued working as slaves than to struggle with trying to prove themselves in a prejudiced job market. Some American families now can barely afford rent and utilities, let alone food, in our economy of low salaries and high prices, and if they thought they could have a guaranteed home and food, they might willingly work in slavery.

In addition to being a working slave by choice, however, there are also those who are slaves by choice in other ways. Usually, the “by choice” part is only at the beginning of their slavery, but when they realize the situation has begun to hurt them, it’s often too late. Whether they are slaves to an addiction, or slaves to human beings they feel they cannot live without, or slaves to jobs that hold them in bondage by promising they will not give them a good reference if they leave, they are not free.

And then there are those who make the choice to be a slave under duress. The old song Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford makes the statement, “I owe my soul to the company store” because miners went to work owing from the first day on the job. That slavery was made by choice by men who just wanted to feed their families, but the slave owners (mine owners) charged them for their clothing, homes, etc., by giving them first and charging them later, so they always owed, and never got ahead.

All of these forms of slavery are mingled with pain and sadness because they are all bondage instead of freedom. But we can become slaves by choice in a way that brings freedom. 1 Peter 2:16 states it this way: Submit as people who are free, but not letting your freedom serve as an excuse for evil; rather, submit as God’s slaves. Being a slave to God means being free in our souls even when we are not free in our bodies. Being free in our souls means we can praise God in all things because we trust more in the life we have promised in eternity than in the painful but temporary life we must endure now. And to put icing on the cake, we have the promise that we who have been set free by Christ are free indeed.

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May 1, 2014 - Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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