Have you seen the little cartoon going around the internet where the two characters are sitting across a table from one other and the dialogue goes like this:
“So what do you do?”
“I’m a cashier.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean what do you do for money … I mean, what do you do for the world?”
Isn’t this typical of us as humans, especially in a westernized culture, to define ourselves by our career and what we do to earn a living? There’s a false notion that our self-worth is determined by our socio-economic status, but as followers of Jesus Christ there is another false notion going around. That is that our ultimate purpose in life is to fulfill our duty in God’s Kingdom, to spread the Gospel and to be a SERVANT of Jesus Christ. The truth is while the great commission is all of our responsibility, our role is more clearly defined not as a SERVANT but as a SLAVE.
This notion came as I was pondering what to put as my “title” on some of my social media pages, and what would most clearly and simply define my purpose in life. It was interesting how I cringed with hesitation to put what I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to write” “A Slave to Jesus Christ.” Most people would have no problem saying “servant” or “follower,” but the word “slave” just has too much negative stigma attached to it, I thought.
My next thought was of the idea often portrayed in movies where one person saves another person’s life and the one who was saved vows their service and indebtedness to their savior. Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of “Azeem” along side Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood” came to mind.
If it is a widely accepted noble gesture to pledge your service and essentially become a slave to repay your indebtedness to someone who saves your life on earth, how much more indebted and bound in service should we be to the One who saves our soul for all of eternity?
I decided to do a little research and was amazed by what I found, did you know that in the New Testament the word “slave” is used over 100 times in the original text? Yet virtually all English translations use the word “servant” or “bondservant” in its place. The word is “doulos” in Greek and in the Greek Lexicon the 1st definition is “slave.” One expanded part of the definition says “devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.” Now this to me clearly sounds like the proper definition of what our role is in God’s Kingdom in light of Jesus’ instructions for us to “take up our cross and follow Him.”
Other definitions of the word slave say things like: “a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something” and “one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence.” These are clearly much better definitions of what our proper relationship to God should be. We are to be a slave to our Heavenly Father’s will like Jesus Christ was when He walked the earth. You can see all the places the more authentic definition is used in translations by looking here and here. The NASB and HCSB translations seem to be true to the original text in relation to this topic.
The reality is we cannot just view ourselves as Christ’s servant, one who performs duties for Him when it is convenient, or in exchange for something else. We must be a slave to His will and be in the constant practice of denying ourselves and our own desires. We all want our master Jesus Christ to respond to us, His slaves, in the same way the master responded to his slave in the parable of the talents:
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:21 NASB
I love the way John MacArthur explains this in a sermon I came across while researching this topic:
When you give somebody the gospel, you are saying to them, ‘I would like to invite you to become a slave of Jesus Christ. I would like to invite you to give up your independence, give up your freedom, submit yourself to an alien will, abandon all your rights, be owned by, controlled by the Lord.’ That’s really the gospel. We’re asking people to become slaves.
Now, while the word slave still has a negative connotation in regard to one human forcefully exerting their will over another, we should all praise and worship our Lord with gratitude and thanksgiving to have the opportunity to become His slave. By submitting ourselves to complete obedience and service of the authority of Jesus Christ, we gain the benefits of being a part of His household.
He owns us because we were bought with a price, His precious blood shed on the cross at Calvary. However He doesn’t forcefully make us obey, we must do that of our own volition. However when we do we fulfill the purpose for which we were created, when our wills become aligned with His will the impossible becomes possible and we get elevated to a higher level of joy, satisfaction, fulfillment, peace and power than we could ever dream of getting to on our own.
Will you gratefully declare yourself a slave of Jesus Christ? If you claim Jesus Christ as your Savior isn’t it also time you completely submit to Him as Lord?