Employee, Indentured Servant, Slave, or Free? posted

D L Henderson
4 min readDec 20, 2022

12/19/2022

2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…” is how Peter begins this second communique to Believers. Now, his use of the word “apostle” indicates he was once a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth and after becoming a Believer, Jesus had sent him out into the world as one of His ambassadors.

What is often omitted-and actually avoided by some-is that Peter called himself a “slave” (Greek “doulos”) not as in this translation which uses the softer more digestible idea of diakonos, that is,”servant.” However, the original word used was doulos, not diakonos, because this latter word carries that easier concept of “servant.” I guess some worry too much about offending. Nevertheless, it’s true. In today’s highly sophisticated world, we would rather think of ourselves as “employees,” certainly not as servants or slaves!

Yet, as Peter was from the Jewish culture, he would probably have in mind the more complex concept of being a “bondslave.” The word is from the often thought tedious Law of Moses. Mankind doesn’t much like any of those outmoded concepts in that Law. We chafe at such primitive ideas. Nevertheless, in so doing, we miss the richness within Peter’s Jewish way of thinking.

From the website https://www.newsbug.info

“Slave” is the Greek word “doulos”. The two words are distinctly different. A servant in Bible times was one who voluntarily chose to serve another. A slave was one taken against his will and forced to serve. It was common in Bible times for a man deeply entrenched in poverty to go to a wealthy man and offer his services to the wealthy man if the rich man would agree to pay all the poor man’s debts. They would negotiate how much time and how much service.

The Old Testament explains what a bondslave is in and their treatment. Deuteronomy 15:12–15, If any of your people — Hebrew men or women — sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.

I love the Jewish economic structure! Don’t you?

Further, in verses 16–18, But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant. Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because their service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

To conclude then, Peter, rather than hired out as simply an employee, he had become a servant of Jesus and had toiled with Him for some three years. Then, after Jesus had paid all of Peter’s debts, the opportunity for returning to his old life remained. In fact, at one time, he had abandoned Jesus and denied even knowing Him! But he later chose to be reconciled and continue on with Jesus. Yes, in the end, Peter so loved serving in the family of God that he chose to commit to a lifetime of servitude, adopting the life of a bondslave and referring to himself as such..

Today we have the same chance to take Jesus’ purpose for our lives, serving and learning from Him. Chances will always be there to go back to our old lives. You see, it’s always about choice. You will find that His work for you is an easy assignment and those assignments are not complicated nor stressful. But if you, like so many others, chafe at the idea… Well, it’s always about choice, isn’t it.

In Jesus’ own words,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry. Matthew 11:28–30.

--

--

D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between