Athlete, Seek Justice

Read Exodus 21

Do not tamper with and do not dehumanize the image of God.  This is the resounding message of Exodus 21.  We may be distracted from this message by important questions about slavery, but let us not lose sight of it.  God shows great care for servants (21:26-27), men, women (21:8-11), unborn children (21:22-25), and parents (21:15), and He calls us to go to great lengths to protect humanity from harm and dehumanization.  

This is not the place for extensive comments about the existence of slavery among God’s people, but a few may be made.  First, kidnapping and forced servitude, the primary brand of slavery known to Americans, was punishable by death (21:16).  Foreigners were not to be mistreated (next chapter, 22:21).  Second, slavery was no more ideal in God’s economy than poverty, yet it did exist.  The poor were able to sell their services to pay a debt (22:25 - not usury!) or to provide for themselves, similar to the way that Jacob sold himself to Laban for seven years to pay the price for his bride.  Third, slavery was not to be permanent.  After six years, the servant was to be sent away with generous gifts (Deuteronomy 15:12-14).  In the case of the release of female servants, their marital status and rights were also to be taken into consideration in order to protect their future prospects (21:8-11).  Finally, while it’s difficult to understand 21:21 in a society in which corporeal punishment has become foreign (not the case in ancient agrarian societies), masters were not to be harsh with their servants and lasting injury (a missing tooth, for instance) resulted in release with no further debt payment required.  Ideally, masters would treat their servants in such a way that their servants actually loved them (21:5-6)!  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

Where do you see injustice and dehumanization around you?  How has Jesus entered into our injustice and dehumanization?  How would God have you follow Jesus into injustice and dehumanization in order to bring justice and to re-humanize?

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