Friday, December 04, 2009

Benevolent Slavery

If I said I believe in slavery, you might be shocked.

But did you ever notice in the Law which God gave to Israel through Moses, that slavery was not criminalized?

Slavery itself was not outlawed. What mattered was how they did it. Moses wrote certain Laws regarding slavery which were ground-breaking for his times. Moses' slavery Laws ensured that slavery was profitable and compassionate for both the slaver-owner and the slave: it was a win-win situation.

That's different to the slavery laws that existed at various times outside of Israel. For example, we've often heard of situations in which a slave belonged permanently to his master - but under Moses' Law there was a definite time limit placed on the arrangement - seven years - unless the slave of his own free will chose to continue the arrangement permanently.

We've also heard of cruelty being inflicted on slaves by their owners - but in Moses' Law there were Laws covering the humane treatment of slaves including punishments against owners if they mistreated slaves.

We've also heard of slaves being exploited for the sole benefit of their owners - but under Moses' Law, certain provisions were put in place which ensured that the slave profited from the arrangement as well as the owner. And the owners were required to set their slaves up for the future.

Unlike our modern welfare systems which redistribute wealth from its rightful owners to the poor with no advantage to the owners, Moses' slavery Laws provided a way for the poor to get themselves out of financial trouble, and get set up for the future - at no cost to any segment of society. Rather, the arrangement benefited the wealthy also.

It's the word slavery which turns us off. So let's call it indentured service; or a workplace agreement.

I think it is consistent with the Biblical ideals of private property and compassion, to allow employers and employees to come into a mutually satisfying and profitable agreement of service.

As long as it's not against anyone's will. As long as it doesn't disadvantage any party financially. As long as the profit is mutual. As long as no-one gets mistreated. And as long as the employee or trainee is given the opportunity to be set up for the future and to be free to take a different path in future.

That's all Moses was really talking about. He called it slavery. We can call it something else if we want.

But the bottom line is that Moses gave the poor a chance to get ahead without it costing anyone else anything. They benefited from the arrangement too. That's God's way.

We can apply these principles to modern social security. A huge percentage of our GNP is spent on social welfare. Hard-earned funds are redistributed from their rightful owners to others, with no benefit to the rightful owners. A welfare-mentality is bred into the recipients, and the cycle goes downward.

Imagine if instead of a dole system, we allowed the poor to make agreements with employers which benefited both parties.

For example, I know some people who, for whatever reason, cannot settle into employment. They've lived on welfare for years. But I know that the same young people would cope much better if they were able to go to a family, and make themselves available to serve around the home or in the family business, and in return be paid not the award wage, but accommodation, clothing, food, training for the future, some sort of an allowance - and a sense of belonging and companionship.

Such an arrangemnent would be a win-win situation for all concerned. The family would benefit financially from his services. And he would benefit by feeling that he was employed instead of being the recipient of welfare.

Of course it would hopefully be only a temporary arrangement. The Prophets foresaw a day when through the Gospel slavery would be abolished. It is still God's wish that no-one need resort to slavery. But in the meantime, "the poor you have always with you" Jesus said - so thankfully there is provision for the poor in a way that doesn't inflict an injustice on the wealthy nor on the poor themselves.

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