We live in a country that presents itself as a bastion of freedom and liberty. A place where people are free to make the decisions they want for their lives and to attempt to fulfill their every dream. If you were to ask the people of this country the simple question that titles this article, they would overwhelmingly respond in the negative. Nevertheless, an examination of the Scriptures would require an affirmative response to the inquiry.
When we think of slavery, we often consider it under the umbrella of centuries past, in which times men would go and secure other men by nefarious means and sell and trade them as possessions. However, though this is an accurate representation of a form of slavery in the past, it is not the only type of slavery. A slave is defined as, “A person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant” (Webster). Therefore, a slave is one who is subject to the will and authority of another. Though we often consider slaves to be of the involuntary kind, there are also voluntary slaves: those who willingly place themselves under the authority of someone or something; being obedient to the desires of their masters willingly and fully. In the Scriptures such an individual is called a servant. The word comes from the Greek word doulos meaning, “A slave, bondman, man of servile condition” (Thayer). As such, servants and slaves are interchangeable terms in regard to their meaning.
With that in mind, consider the words of the apostle Paul: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 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. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:16-18). Paul makes the argument in this text that all men are slaves. As such there are two potential masters for mankind.
Paul’s first category is servants of sin. The slave to sin is one who allows sinful thoughts and actions to direct and rule his life. Someone says, “I’m not a slave, I make my own decisions and do whatever I want,” that individual, whether they recognize it or not, is a servant of sin. He is ruled by his own passions and desires, not giving a care for what is right or wrong. How often are men slaves to money, power, pleasure, and possessions? They are driven by the desires to obtain and retain the things of this world, they fall prey to the lusts and pride of the world (1 John 2:15-16) and thereby enslave themselves to the service of their foolish lusts. Paul describes such servants as those who serve sin that leads to death. Many proclaim that the serving of fleshly desires is “living life to the fullest,” but the payment for putting yourself in subjection to those things is death (Rom. 6:23).
However, being a slave to sin is not the only option. Men can also choose to be slaves of Christ; to give themselves over to righteous obedience of his commands and live their lives in his service. Paul portrayed himself as such a servant in his introduction to the Romans when he wrote, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Though at one point we may have been a slave to sin, we can willingly change our master. We can voluntarily place ourselves in the service of the Redeemer. But it must be understood that such a choice means putting ourselves to death (Gal. 2:20; Mat. 16:24-25); recognizing that we do not make the choices for the direction of our lives based upon what we want and think, but based upon what our Lord requires.
Every man is a slave to something or someone, no matter how “free” he proclaims himself. We must understand that we must choose our master, and choose wisely; because as Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters” (Mat. 6:24). There is no part-time servant of Christ; only those who are wholly dedicated to him, and those who have dedicated themselves to another master. Therefore the question is not whether you are a slave, but more accurately: “Whose slave are you?”