Contemplating Jesus

THE RIGHT ENSLAVEMENT

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

Paul Cezanne Still Life with Fruit l886-l890

Human life carries many aspects of enslavement  – duties and responsibilities, self-imposed or otherwise,  poverty, distress, disappointments, rejections, loss, disabilities of various kinds, the list goes on.  But what exactly was Jesus alluding to when he spoke in Luke 17: 7-10 about a master’s expectations of a slave?  A harsh taskmaster, the slave’s owner requires extended toil before a slave can pause for refreshment.  Jesus, invoking the imagery of such a relationship, was responding to a question about increasing faith.  The slave is required to be obedient and humble in carrying out the will of God.  If you do your basic duty of “ploughing or tending sheep in the field” Jesus said you are not going to be automatically welcomed at the end of the day to dine with your master at table.   More is certainly required of you, like preparing the master’s dinner, putting on one’s apron and serving food to others.  When all that’s done, then you can sit down and eat.  In Jesus’ story, no gratitude is extended the slave for the work performed, because the slave is expected to do what he is commanded to do.  That is the foundation of the relationship between a master and slave, the security of knowing one’s place and one’s duty towards the other.  The master is secure in knowing the slave does what is commanded, the slave is secure in being rewarded at the end of the day.  Both expect stability and both know their place.

French priest, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, wrote in his book, The Joy of Full Surrender, that we do not know at times why we are treated by a loving God in harsh, unyielding ways.  He claims that when we endure these challenges without question, our souls become pliable in the hands of our master.  The slave has only to love God and “endure all that he inflicts on me.  As for what I am destined to be and how to achieve it, that is his business.  I am as ignorant of what he is doing as I am of what I am destined to become.  All I know is that his work is the best, the most perfect that it could be.’ *

As Jesus never preached what he didn’t practice, his entire life was a model of total obedience to the commands of God.  In Philippians 2: 5-7, Paul wrote, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something o be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.”

Jesus directed his disciples to do what’s commanded, saying to themselves, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:10).  At the end of his life, Jesus showed what he had to do for his master:  the cross was his emphasis.

*The Joy of Full Surrender” Jean-Pierre de Caussade, p. 93

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