Guest / Limited Access /
Alec Hill: Inside My Slavery
Image: Shutterstock

Scripture contains more than 40 of Jesus' parables. Some are so well known, hospitals (Good Shepherd) and laws (Good Samaritan) are named after them. Others confound readers today as much as they likely did their first hearers. And one parable has been all but forgotten—at least in the West. Recently I shared it with five U.S. ministry leaders. In their 130 collective years of service, not one of them had given a talk on it or heard it preached from the pulpit.

Contrast their response with that of a Nigerian friend, who told me that the parable is one of his favorite teachings of Jesus. So why would the parable resonate in Nigeria and seemingly fall flat in the United States?

The parable—found only in the Gospel of Luke—was delivered relatively late in Jesus' ministry, to his closest followers. It belonged to a set of teachings on discipleship:

Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, "Come here at once and take your place at the table"? Would you not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink"? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!" (17:7–10, NRSV)

The plot is simple. A small household employs a doulos—Greek for "slave" given how domestic bondage worked in Greco-Roman times. A jack-of-all-trades, the slave plows a field and tends sheep during his first shift, and cooks meals and cleans up during his second.

The plot hinges on two questions: ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueThe Handcrafted Gospel
Subscriber Access Only The Handcrafted Gospel
Meet the craftsmen reclaiming the honor of manual labor.
RecommendedLent—Why Bother?
Subscriber Access Only Lent—Why Bother?
Three authors weigh the merits of observing Lent.
TrendingThe Real St. Patrick
The Real St. Patrick
A look at the famous saint, and his strategic missions.
Editor's PickMoral Relativism Is Dead
Moral Relativism Is Dead
Why outrage culture is good news for the gospel.
Christianity Today
Alec Hill: Inside My Slavery
hide thisJuly/August July/August

In the Magazine

July/August 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.