We Are All Slaves and Servants

Luisa Collopy

Contributing Writer
Updated Feb 20, 2024
We Are All Slaves and Servants

We have a new life sold to the real Master, who bought us with His own precious blood and indulges us with true liberty and fulfillment.

It was revealed by Finding Your Roots, a PBS show, that The View’s Sunny Hostin’s maternal ancestors were slave owners. Hostin was deeply disappointed by this new information and wanted to make it known that she has the “spirit of atonement.” 

I was blessed to be born and have lived in Asia for half of my life, where having house help is common. One oversaw market-shopping and cooking, as well as the rest of the staff. Two handled house cleaning, laundry, and whatever else was assigned to them. Nannies took care of the kids. And the chauffeur was always ready to drive anyone anywhere. It was quite a household to run—and we were grateful for each one of them! They made life easier and more comfortable for us. 

The backstory for all of them is the same: their families can no longer afford to feed everyone, so anyone old enough to work must find a job. Most of them came to us as recommendations and were employed in our household for seven years (or more). They were not sold to us nor were they forced to work for us. In fact, some left because they were ready to start their own families; for others, it was simply time to move on to other things, such as owning a small mom-and-pop store in their town, after saving enough money. 

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary's general definition of a servant is one who serves others, especially one who performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employer. Slave, on the other hand, is defined as someone captured, sold, or born into chattel slavery; or someone (such as a factory worker or domestic laborer) who is coerced, often under threat of violence, to work for little or no pay; or someone or something that is completely subservient to a dominating person or influence. 

The Bible Mentions Slaves and Servants

After receiving the Lord’s instruction to set out for the land of Canaan, Abram packed up his household, including “the people that they had acquired in Haran” (Genesis 12:5). And when he had to take everyone to Egypt during the famine, it was mentioned that he had “male servants” and “female servants” (v.16). Sarai, Abram’s wife, had her own servant, Hagar the Egyptian (16:1). 

There was Joseph, whose own brothers sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites coming from Gilead and going to Egypt (37:28). He was then bought by the captain of the guard of Pharaoh in Egypt and became overseer of the household (39:1-6). 

The Book of Exodus opens with the dread of the Egyptians for the people of Israel so “they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (1:8-14). After the Israelites left Egypt and while they were in the wilderness, laws about slaves were established by God (21:1-32). 

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary called herself a “servant of the Lord,” saying, “Let it be to me according to your word,” after she heard the angel’s explanation of how she would conceive Jesus as a virgin (1:26-38).

There were the parables showing all types of masters and servants: the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35, the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16, the tenants in Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-18, the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, the dishonest manager in Luke 16:1-13, and the ten minas in Luke 19:11-27

The twelve disciples who walked with Jesus called Him "Master". Jesus, in turn, taught them how to be worthy servants (Luke 17:7-10) and demonstrated such when He washed their feet (John 13:1-20). 

There are more passages to read in the Old and New Testaments. Slaves and servants did exist even thousands of years ago. This is not an excuse nor a defense for their existence. It was simply a way of life. Warring nations captured people and they were part of their spoils. Some used slavery and servanthood as a form of punishment for a crime or for paying debts. Some didn’t have a choice, like Joseph. Others volunteered as servants to save themselves from poverty, like our house help. 

We Are All Slaves and Servants

While Hostin’s reaction to her ancestral history of slave ownership may seem extreme, she is not alone. Many are seeking the “spirit of atonement” for the “sins of others” that they didn’t have anything to do with. The past is history, and we can learn from it today to fight the slavery that has not been abolished—child labor, forced marriages, sexual trafficking, and so forth. But this is not about those social issues.

Think about this statement for now: we are all slaves and servants! 

You can be a judge, a police officer, a firefighter—you name any public service career, and you find a public servant.

Are you a homemaker? Don’t you feel like a servant at home most of the time? 

Do you have a job, making you a slave to the time clock? And to your boss who says you must work overtime?

Consider the influencer who can’t enjoy his or her authentic self for fear of losing brand endorsements.

Do you have a better picture of why we are all slaves and servants in these modern times? To make them sound more appropriate and correct, we have names and titles for them: politicians, government officials, executives, social media influencers, etc.

Now, how about throwing in the mix “a slave to sin”? What addiction has captured you that you are now hopelessly dependent on it?

Be a Slave to Righteousness

Speaking to the followers of Jesus Christ in Rome, Paul reminded them that they were dead to sin and alive in God. He said, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

But knowing that man’s propensity is to look back at history and see if there might be something to resurrect—something akin to Hostin’s guilt over the possible slavery ownership of her ancestors—Paul challenged the Romans: “Do you not know that if present yourselves to anyone as obedient slave, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (v.16). So, slavery still exists, but you can choose what you are a slave to! Sin or obedience to God.

If we truly are followers of Christ, we can choose the right path to slavery—that of righteousness. Paul continued: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slave of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (vv.17-19). Liberated from our slavery to sin, we can begin our dependence on God.

“Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (v.22). We have a new life sold to the real Master, who bought us with His own precious blood and indulges us with true liberty and fulfillment.

As for the spirit of atonement? Yes! But remember, “[Jesus] himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 John 2:2 NLT). And if we are in His covenant, He is merciful and will no longer remember our unrighteousness and sins (Hebrews 8:12). We can let the past lie in the past and not be disappointed or guilty about it anymore! 

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/manopjk

Luisa Collopy is an author, speaker and a women’s Bible study teacher. She also produces Mula sa Puso (From the Heart) in Tagalog (her heart language), released on FEBC Philippines stations. Luisa loves spending time with her family over meals and karaoke!