Slave at work?

People joke about being slaves at work. Then they read Titus 2:9-10 and are shocked.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)

Wait. Paul’s biggest concern about slavery is that slaves please their masters? Really?

What first-century slavery was not

But the slavery in first century Crete was not what we imagine when we hear the word. It had nothing to do with race and more to do with economic status. It was an entry level job – but a job nonetheless.

In fact, doctors, lawyers and politicians in financial trouble would voluntarily become slaves to relieve a debt-burden or provide for their families. Some chose to be slaves to be looked after in their master’s households. (Read more here)

In any case, it was a low station in society. So when people in dead-end, low-paid jobs, with unkind bosses and few prospects joke about being slaves, they’re actually not far off what the Bible means by the term.

Paul’s greatest concern

The greater scandal for our culture - whose main aim is often self-actualisation and the pursuit of fulfilment in their career - is that Paul’s focus is elsewhere. He isn’t as concerned about Christian slaves getting out of their depressing circumstances as he is their holiness in those circumstances.

He’s talking to the grafters and the poor; the overworked and the undervalued; the ones with little hope of breaking out of their situation. And he says this; “what little career hope you have, let the eternal hope of being with the Lord Jesus shape how you work.”

Do what your boss says, work hard for them, don’t gossip about them behind their back (Titus 2:9). Don’t fill out your time sheet over-generously, be a loyal, hardworking colleague (Titus 2:10).

A high calling

And why?

Because in so doing, whether you’re a janitor or a judge, a PA or a politician, you “will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive” (Titus 2:10). The way we work matters.

Slave at work? God gives the highest calling to even the lowest station.