Read Proverbs 22
Focus on verse 7
Here in America in the heart of modern western civilization we like to think that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, of 1863. I have since come to believe that slavery will continue to exist as long as humanity continues to exist. It is estimated that the current number of people being bought and sold worldwide is somewhere between 20 and 30 million people. The majority of these are women and girls who have been forced into some form of sex trafficking with the remainder being forced labor of some kind. While awareness of this in the west seems to be rising, the response of most people seems to be a disappointing “what could I possibly do about it?” I would have to admit I would probably fall into that group. It is not that I don’t think it is wrong, or that I would not like to do something about it… it is just that I feel helpless to make a significant difference when the problem is so huge and complex… I don’t know where to begin.
As huge as the global problem of human trafficking is, there is another form of slavery that is much more subtle, and therefore even more common. Solomon makes this observation in today’s reading. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” I do not believe that Solomon is suggesting that this is the way it should be, it is simply his observation describing the way the world tends to operate. As I consider what I know of human history, I would observe that this has been true of human civilization since the events of Genesis chapter three. The rich rule over the poor regardless of the form of government. In communist China, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the Republic of “you name it”. We like to think that here in America and Canada things are different. Here “We the People” have the power and make the rules. I beg to differ. In America the rules are still made by the people who have the most influence, and the people who have the most influence tend to be the people who have the most money. So whether it is a dictatorship or a democratic republic, the nature of humanity is still the same. The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is still slave to the lender.
The reason this is so is because since Genesis chapter three our forefather Adam chose to enslave humanity to sin rather than to continue to live as a free agent in obedience to God. So the slavery continues and perhaps old Bob Dillon was right when he sang (well, sorta sang…more like rhythmically spoke while he played a guitar) “You gotta serve somebody…it might be the devil or it might be the Lord… but you gotta serve somebody”. As I contemplate this reality it seems a rather dismal philosophy of life, and if we left it at this point it would indeed be just that. Fortunately, the Lord does not leave us in that sorry state. In the New Testament Paul writes to the Galatian believers, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) He elaborates further in this letter that though we are called to freedom, we ought not to use this freedom to serve ourselves, but to serve others. (Galatians 5:13-14)
Herein lies the secret to freedom. When we make the choice to serve others motivated by the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are no longer slaves. Instead we become family. I serve my family not because they own me, but because I love them. When I serve because I want to instead of because I have to – it changes the way I feel about it. In fact it pretty much changes everything! A slave is motivated to serve by fear of punishment. A brother or sister is motivated to serve by love and devotion. True freedom is found in the family of God, not in the circumstance in our mortal life.