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.

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Work as a Slave for Food


Signs by Flickr User Technosailor CC License = Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike

Will Work for Food signs by Flickr User Aaron Brazell aka Technosailor
Click image to view original & access photo stream in new tab.

While I never held a sign by the side of the road, I have been both homeless and hungry. In those days, it was a treat to find clean food at the top of a McDonald’s trash can, though now the smell of ketchup in the garbage is hard for me to deal with. Maybe it’s old vinegar, or maybe it’s old memories, but I’m thankful I survived those times without becoming a permanent slave to anyone.  And I’ve been homeless more than once, even during a time when I was working and sleeping in my car in the company parking lot. I’m thankful God has delivered me from all those times, but I’m also grateful I went through them.

As this week’s portion comes to an end, we find Israel living in the best part of the land Egypt. Our reading from Genesis 47:11 through Genesis 47:27 finds the family living in Ra’amses as Pharaoh promised. Joseph feeds and cares for his father and brothers and his entire family to the youngest of them.

And then we read why the above is so important. The famine in the land had become so severe that people could not even provide money to purchase food or grain any longer. Joseph tells the people to give their cattle and flocks to Pharaoh in exchange for food. Because they didn’t want to starve, they gave up all their animals. The next year, they found the same issue, only this time the only thing they had left was their land and their own bodies. They promised their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food and for grain to plant on their property to grow more food.

Eventually, Joseph acquired all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. As for people, they were reduced to slaves city by city. The only ones who did not have to sell their land or become slaves were the priests. They had always been provided for by Pharaoh, so it remained that way. But everyone else was so grateful for their lives that they gladly gave their all to Pharaoh and even promised twenty percent of their future prosperity to him forever.

I still hurt for anyone who is hungry and/or cold, and I know that while some things in our economy improve, others get tougher–like needing two forms of identification to get a job. You can lose a lot of financial ground while you’re trying to get the money together to order a birth certificate, wait for its arrival, and then get the money and time to go get an ID (and a social security card if you don’t have one). It’s harder still if you can’t prove an address to put on the ID. Sadly, however, I also know that there are people who make upwards of $3000 per day just by holding one of those signs, and I’ve tried to give food and work to some who have rejected it because they actually only wanted money.

I’d love to hear from readers who have experienced either side of homelessness or hunger. Do you have an inspiring story about someone who climbed up with a little help from strangers? I can tell you some amazing stories of provision from both men and from God, and I’ll be glad to share with anyone who asks. In the meantime, I’m thankful that I am able to sit here in a warm home and write this to you. It’s a huge leap from a patch of grass and using newspapers for blankets.

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Joe Somebody


Today’s reading from Genesis 39:1 through Genesis 39:6 appears to be one of the shortest yet at only six verses. But it covers an important turn of events in the life of Joseph and in the future of the house of Israel. While Joseph’s brothers considered him long gone and forgotten, Yahveh was watching over their brother and making plans they could never have imagined might become quite important to them one day.

The Ishmaelites who had purchased Joseph from the brothers carried him to Egypt and re-sold him. The man who bought him, named Potiphar, was an officer of the Pharoah and captain of the guard. One translation says he was the chief in charge of executions. Okay, so that’s not a boss you want to make angry, right? But, of course, because of the blessings of God, Joseph not only did not make his new boss angry, he greatly impressed him. Potiphar did not take long to see that everything in his care prospered because of Joseph.

When Potiphar realized that God was with Joseph and caused all he did to be blessed, he put him in charge of all his possessions. The brother who was a nobody and sold as a slave was still a slave, but suddenly he was more than a slave. Joseph became a somebody in charge of all his master’s goods and all that was in his care. The text says that Potiphar never even had to worry about anything with Joseph in charge, so he thought nothing of any of his affairs except what he had to eat. The text ends with a simple statement about Joseph being handsome and well-built.

Now, imagine hiring an employee like a maid, secretary, cook, etc., and suddenly having your household increase and prosper. Most people put out ‘nanny-cams” to make sure those in their employ are not stealing from them or snooping in areas where they don’t belong. I don’t think there are many who find themselves becoming more prosperous for the sake of their employees, especially these days when it’s even hard to find someone who has the ethic to make an effort to work every minute for which they are paid. So, we would surely notice if everything around that new person increased abundantly.

I imagine most of us would be trying to figure what that person was doing right to bring all that good into his or her life. I also imagine that we would be following the person around and hoping that at least some of that might rub off on us. If we found that it was not luck but rather the blessings of The Creator of the Universe, I would hope we would all be seeking Him because of the example set before us. And for those of us who are the employees and servants of others, I hope we can bring visible blessings to those we serve that God would be glorified and uplifted by the blessings we share with others.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cisterns and Brothers


Or maybe the title could be Cistern and Brethren. There were no sisters in today’s reading from Genesis 37:23 through Genesis 37:36–the end of the chapter. But there were plenty of brothers. There were many evil brothers, and there were brothers who each in their own way tried to stave off the evil of murder. If you’ll remember from yesterday, Reuben suggested dropping Joseph in the cistern instead of killing him. Today, Judah suggested that instead of killing him, they should sell him to a band of Ishmaelites headed to Egypt. He told them it wasn’t right to kill someone who was a brother, and they agreed.

But when Reuben came back to rescue Joseph, he found that Joseph was no longer in the cistern, and he tore his clothes. He returned to where his brothers were having dinner and said, “The boy isn’t there. Now where can I go?” I don’t know if this gave away that he was going to rescue him or not, but their solution was to dip the robe they tore off him (a definite sign of their jealousy of the relationship he had with their father) into goat’s blood and present it to their father. They asked the father to identify if the robe belonged to Joseph, and I’m guessing they knew it would lead to the conclusion he drew–that his son was torn to pieces and eaten by a wild animal.

I doubt the brothers even thought about the effect of their selfish act on their father. Scripture says he mourned so deeply that he refused to be comforted. It says all his children tried to comfort him, but he told them he would go to his grave in mourning. Getting him out of the way did not get them any closer to their father and may even have caused even more of a division as he pushed them away.

The way things went between the brothers and their father reminds me of the quote… Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours glow any brighter. When I first saw it, I was preparing a church bulletin, and I found it in a book of clip art. It was accompanied by a drawing of a person holding a candle behind his back while blowing on the candle of someone else. The idea that it would not glow any brighter behind his back, or in effect “under a bushel,” seemed to make it more impactful. We do not make ourselves look better by making someone else look worse, and it hides our true light under a bushel of deception and manipulation. I guess it’s too bad those brothers didn’t have a book of virtues, or clip art, or some little instruction book to look at, but at least their bad decisions were recorded for us to learn from.

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God is a Promise Keeper


In the last few days, we studied how Lot had many blessings as a relative of Abraham. When God blesses someone, He does it so well that their blessings cannot help but spill over to others. In today’s reading from Genesis 21:5 through Genesis 21:21, we read about God’s blessings on Abraham’s sons.

Now, I’m saying sons because at the beginning of the reading, Sarah has finally given birth to Isaac, Abraham’s son of promise. She is amazed at the experience and even praises God for being able to nurse her son. She doesn’t even mind that his name means laughter since she now says that others will laugh with her in celebration of this great joy in her life.

Unfortunately, her happiness comes to a screeching halt when she sees the son of her handmade Hagar making fun of Isaac. She chased Hagar out once before because she was making fun of Sarah for being barren. Now, she demands that Abraham make her leave again because she cannot bear to see the other boy teasing her son. Abraham goes to God to find out what to do, and God tells him to listen to Sarah. But God also promises Abraham that He will be with the boy and make a great nation of him “because he is descended from you,” God says.

Even though there will come a time in the future where Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s only son, God is faithful to extend the blessings and promises He has poured out upon him throughout his generations. Since those of us who are circumcised in heart toward God are now considered to be of Abraham’s seed (See Galatians 3:29), that means God’s promises and blessings come all the way down to us as well. Praise God that He is a promise giver and a promise keeper.

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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