The slave vs. the servant:

Do you know the difference?

I had en ephiphany this morning. Some months ago, I read the book Redemption by Mark Driscoll, which by the way, I won’t recommend reading, but will elaborate on why later on in this blog.

One of the key ideas in the book, is that we are slaves to our “idols” (distractions that keep us from full relationship with God) much like the Israelites in the book of Exodus. The book says that we need to get rid of our idols and become “slaves” to righteousness.

As a mature Christian, I understand what Mark means, but the word “slave” never set well with me because the word has a negative connotation.

Many months ago, I started reading the KJV version of the bible instead of the NIV. I understand it nowdays in a way I never could before. (Thank you Jesus for lifting the veil.) For quite some time, I’ve been matching verses in both translations to see where they differ and if the changes, change the meaning. Many times, the NIV simply takes out the “thee’s,” “thou’s,” and words ending in “eth.” I don’t have a problem with that, but I am noticing in some places where replacing a word with a similar word, changes the meaning.

I think the slave vs. servant is one of those “key” changes that could be problematic in sharing the gospel with nonbelievers.

Websters dictionary defines a slave as one who is bound in servitude as the property of a person or household. Slavery is a condition of hard work and subjection.

The definition of servant is one who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another: obedient servant.

These definitions are vastly different as one means you have no choice in the matter, the other means a willing submission, obedience to your debtor.

If you look in the bible for verses that speak to our attitude towards a relationship with God, the NIV uses the word “slave” instead of “servant,” and while it seems the difference is slight, stop to ponder what you think and what you feel about both of those words.

For example:
Romans 6:17-18 – (NIV) 17 “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
(KJV)17 “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”

Colossians 3:22 – (NIV) 22 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
(KJV) 22 “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”

Ephesians 6:5 – (NIV) 5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
(KJV) 5 “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;”

I’m not saying the NIV is bad, but I think that it’s always a good practice to balance it against the King James to make sure that the meaning has not been lost in translation.

The relationship we have in Christ we’ve chosen in total freedom; and not under the threat of slavery.

When I think of slavery, I think of being owned by someone. It is very negative and makes me think of torture, neglect, being shackled without choice.

When I think of servant, I automatically think of choice: The freedom to choose to serve someone or something. I also think of it as a selfless act of love and gratitude.

Many people are in some sort of bondage to something (eg. TV, video games, drinking, drugs, porno, overeating, to name a few) but isn’t it really that we’ve just chosen to serve those things rather than serve God fully?

When we look at the meaning of servant over slave, we can understand that it was our willfull choice to think, live and act the way we do.

I know. It’s hard to put ourselves under the microscope, but to live as a believer, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. We choose to serve many, many things, but when we become addicted to those things, it truly becomes slavery. We are in bondage.

The good news is that God provides a way for us to be completely “free” of anything that separates us from Him. The question is, do we really, really want that?

As I said earlier, the book called Redemption by Mark Driscoll, makes a valid point in that our “idols” enslave us and keep us from relationship with God, but the book also says that it’s better to be a slave to Christ (righteousness) than a slave to an addiction.

This is where I have to step away from it. Why would people in their right mind choose slavery to one thing to slavery over another? Why would we choose to be a slave to a master we can’t see, don’t know, or understand over being a slave to a material or physical things we can touch, feel, experience?

We don’t have to be in ANY kind of slavery. God lets us willfully, freely choose Him.

If you really want to be free to serve a mighty God, the bible is the best book for that; however, in the beginning, you may need help navigating through the passages. Neil T. Anderson has written several books on Freedom in Christ. But there are two I’m thinking about specifically that do a wonderful job of helping people become free — “Victory Over the Darkness” and “Bondage Breaker.”

I encourage anyone who is reading this blog, to take a good look at your life.

What fills your time?

Many of us have to work (and no, that’s not slavery — we get to choose who we serve) but outside of that, how do we spend our “free” time? Do we fill it with kid activities (sports, dance, play dates, etc.) and/or adult activities (hobbies, movies, exercise, etc.)?

None of those are bad things, but inside your daily living, how much time is spent “serving” God? Spending time with God?

To be healthy, we need a balance. It’s different for everyone, but through prayer and bible reading, God will guide you in every part of your life.

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