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Choose Your Master?

by | Jun 25, 2023 | Obedience, Sin, Slaves

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you … Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. … For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:13-14a, 16-18, 23)

Paul gives us a really strange picture in this passage. Imagine a slave market—but this one is upside down. Instead of slave owners wandering around to choose their slaves, it’s the slaves wandering around—to choose their masters! That’s the kind of picture Paul uses to describe our situation when it comes to how we live. We can present ourselves as slaves to sin—maybe we should say, fill out a slavery application?—or we can present ourselves as slaves to God. And the one we end up serving will determine the way our lives go.

Notice that there are only two choices in this strange slave market. Nobody can say, “I’m going to be free and serve myself only.” That’s just not an option, given the way human nature works. Paul says to us, “You will certainly be a slave no matter what happens—there’s no getting around that. So think carefully about the slavery you want. Think about the results you want—death, or righteousness and life? Your master makes the difference.”

There’s another thing we ought to notice, too—Paul doesn’t exactly say we should choose our masters. Instead, he says, “Present yourselves to [your master] as obedient slaves.” Why did he choose those exact words? Because as human beings, we can never really say we “chose” God. God does the choosing. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may present ourselves to God to be His slaves—but what matters is God’s choice to make us His.

And He made that choice when He came down into our world as the Man Christ Jesus—”who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men, And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11 ESV).

We Pray: Lord, it’s You whom I wish to serve. Thank You for serving and saving me. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on June 21, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights

Reflection Questions:
1. Does it bother you that Paul uses an analogy taken from slavery? Why or why not?
2. Is there anything useful to learn from this analogy today?
3. Augustine called Jesus the one “whose service is perfect freedom.” What does that mean?