Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. Genesis 37:25-28 ESV
If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. Deuteronomy 24:7 ESV
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23 ESV
When North America and the Caribbean were first settled by Europeans, they started huge plantations of sugar cane, tobacco, and cotton. In order to work these plantations, they imported slaves from Africa. These slaves were first captured by African slave traders, then sold to European slave traders. Slaves were taken from their homes and families and crowded into ships, where many died. Then they were sold to plantation owners in North America and the Caribbean to do backbreaking work in the fields as slaves. It was a terribly cruel and wicked system.
The same kind of thing happened to Joseph. He was sold by his own people–his own brothers!–to slave traders who were on their way to Egypt. His brothers hated Joseph so much that they saw him as no better than dead to them. They took money and sent him off to what might have been a terrible situation, and perhaps to death. What they did was just like a murder.
While God allowed some limited forms of slavery in the Bible, he very definitely forbade his people of Israel to engage in any slave trade. The people of Israel were to treat one another as brothers and sisters, as God’s family. Stealing people, selling them, and making them slaves was just like killing a member of the family, and it was not to happen among God’s people.
American slavery was abolished in the 1800s, but slavery still exists. Many Christians and other people also are very concerned about what is called human trafficking, and are working to stop it. While we work and learn about slavery today, we also need to examine our own hearts. We might never sell or buy a slave, but do we ever hate people enough to want to kill them? That’s just like a murder in our hearts. Do we care about money and things more than we care about people? This makes us as guilty in God’s eyes as if we sold slaves.
We need God’s forgiveness every day for the sins in our hearts and lives. Jesus died to win that forgiveness for us. We were slaves to sin, but Jesus’ death and resurrection sets us free from slavery to sin and death. We now belong to God, and live with him and for him, now and forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for setting me free from sin and death. Forgive me for the hateful thoughts I sometimes have, and help me to live for you. Amen.