Does God delight in humiliating us? Does God deal with us as His slaves?

by May Tam
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

Luke 17:5-10

Slavery, something we rebuke in our world today, was part of the social fabrics of the ancient world. The master-and-servant relationship that existed in Jesus' time was nothing shocking and improper. What is shocking is what Jesus taught us --- to be like a slave. Does God delight in humiliating us? Does God deal with us as His slaves?

Ancient peoples who had not yet received God’s revealed truth, thought that men and women were created to labour as slaves to serve their gods, to appease them in order to remain alive. Israel instead believed that man was created not only in God's likeness but also to His liking (Ps 103, 36:8. 136:26, 86:15; Zep 3:17). So what Jesus was driving at in the gospel reading was not slavery in its literal sense, but service and humility, something He always affirmed and did (Mk 9:33-37, 10:41-45; Mt 23:11-12).

As God’s creatures, we must first see where we stand before Him. We have nothing to boast of before Him. Everything that we can delight in and be proud of is primarily received through the grace of God. Indeed, when we have accomplished what was asked of us, we should only deem ourselves useless servants and unworthy of any reward. Once we put on this attitude and acknowledge our dependence on God, we will begin to see that God has in fact a high regard for us in spite of our lowliness. Just a few examples to illustrate this point as follows:

  • He gave up His only Son for us in order to save us from being the slaves of sin (Rom 6:17).
  • He “proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
  • God who created men became men’s servant at the Last Supper, stooping low to wash their feet (Jn13:4-5).
  • But the most powerful sign of God’s love for us is Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, where He “though was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God........He emptied himself taking the form of a slave......obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-11).

To conclude, Jesus, though Teacher and Lord, did not behave like the master in the parable. In fact, in another parable, He reversed the roles of master and servant (Lk 12:37) so that in reality He the master died the death of a slave. As a result of his death, man is “no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then also an heir” (Gal 4:7).