Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Slave: It Ain’t Mystical

There's 104 days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it
(From the Phineas and Ferb theme song)

I hear that song at least once a day in my house now that Isaiah has picked up watching this show. Hearing that song brought back memories of my school days when I too shared that pressing problem of trying to determine how to spend our time. For my generation the question was asked by a numb-skulled mouse named Pinky and his (or maybe her) shrewd friend Brain.

“What are we going to do today, Brain?” Pinky would ask in every episode. To which Brain would reply, “The same thing we do every day Pinky…try to take over the world.” And just as in Phineas and Ferb these two adventurers would give their days to various exploits that we were privileged to enjoy in each episode.

When I read in my New Testament things like, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”, I wonder what this means for the day to day adventures of life. Am I to be like Pinky asking, “What are we going to do today, Jesus…”? Or does being a slave of Christ mean something different.

The word often translated “servant(s)” is the Greek word doulos. It can just as easily be translated “slave”. The idea is of an indentured-servant that no longer has control of his own life. He has been bought by another and now his main aim is to do his masters will.

So, does this mean that the believer is to be similar to Pinky the Mouse and ask Jesus every morning what we are going to be doing? Did Paul and Timothy wake up every morning with very little knowledge of what their day would look like and only find out when they received a word from the Lord? Did they have to wait for marching order from King Jesus before they set about their day?

Does such a view of slavery fit the ancient world?

The truth is most of these slaves were more like indentured servants. That doesn’t mean a slave with false teeth. (Sorry, that was really bad). What it means is that they held occupations like doctors, teachers, lawyers, carpenters, fish salesmen, etc. Most of them became slaves because they made foolish financial decisions or played too much Bingo at the local synagogue. They didn’t have bankruptcy back in the day so you would sell yourself as a servant to pay off the debt. A free doctor became a servant doctor.

So if you were a carpenter you didn’t sit around playing your Xbox 360 until your daily assignment came in. Nor did you trek to your master’s house and ask him what he wanted you to do that day. You simply went about your day. If you were a carpenter you did carpenter type things for your master.

Certainly there were times when the master would throw you a curveball and the carpenter would spend his Thursday churning butter instead of building a barn. But when he woke up that morning he assumed he would be sawing wood. As a general rule that’s what he would have been doing.

Being a servant of Christ is not conceptually much different. For me I am an associate pastor in Jasper, Indiana and a writer. When I wake up in the morning I am those things and I spend my day doing those things. I don’t need a word from the Lord in the morning to tell me how I ought to spend my day. I already know it. I go about being the best pastor and writer that I can be through His power and for His glory.

What it means to be a slave of Christ

Being a slave of Christ has less to do with determining the specifics of my day and more about the way the specifics of my day are lived out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I write this article and not that article. Or preach this sermon and not that one. It has more to do with the way I write the article or preach the sermon. I write or preach as one bought with the blood of Jesus. My labors are for His kingdom and not my own.

This is not something unique to pastoral ministry either. When an electrician wakes up in the morning as a slave of Christ he does so as a dude that is probably going to wire somebody’s house that day. He might get the occasional curveball from the Lord but as a general rule he’s going to spend his day splicing wires and fixing an old ladies lights to the glory of God.

I imagine if you want to be like Pinky you can ask the Lord what we are going to be doing that day. But I doubt you’ll get a much different response than Pinky received in the cartoon series. “The same thing we do every day Pinky, usher in the Kingdom”.

So enough of all this mystical hogwash about not doing anything until you get direct marching orders from Jesus. If God has called you to be stock shelves at the local grocery store then do it to His glory. And do it with the goal of ushering in His kingdom every day. Don’t waste your time stressing out about all of the specifics.

You’re a slave and that isn’t mystical. 

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