"Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1)
It is interesting that Paul did not command masters to free their slaves. Truth be told, when living in a slave culture like that of the first century Roman Empire, emancipation is not always a beneficial option. Where would the slave go? Where would he find work? How would he survive in a culture that considers him property even if his own master sets him free? It can be hard for us to understand this since we are so far removed from our own slave culture and have little to no context from which to understand Paul's words. Paul's command to the masters was to extend charity to those they ruled over; to treat them fairly, justly and with equity.
We tend to be people who desire honor, mercy, forgiveness, and grace from those above us yet extend judgment and exacting expectations towards those beneath us. We pray for God's forgiveness while we hold grudges and unforgiveness towards others in our hearts. We expect the world around us to accommodate itself to us and our desires while turning a blind eye to the needs and interests of others. We demand others to accept us as we are while all the time holding others in bondage to our exacting exceptions of them. We are like a master who desires peace from his heavenly master but only extends servitude to those over whom they rule.
One day, Jesus told this story of the man who owed his master a large sum of money. The amount today would be in the millions of dollars. Unable to pay, he pleads for more time to repay his debt. Move by compassion, his master forgave him the entire debt and sent him forth free and forgiven. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' " (Matthew 18:28) The man pleaded for mercy and more time to repay but the other would hear none of it and threw him into jail until he should repay the last cent of his debt. When the master of this man heard what had happened he was furious and called the man to account. "'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?" (Matthew 18:32-33) So the master "handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him." (Matthew 18:34)
The moral of the story is that we need to extend the same mercy, forgiveness, and grace that we have received from God to others around us. We may have servants but we too have a master in heaven and He is watching to see if we treat our slaves the same way He treats us. We must remember the words of Jesus when He said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." (Luke 12:48) We have been given so much from our heavenly master. It is time we give some of that to people around us. Even to those we consider as insignificant as slaves. We must learn to give what you have been given and treat others the way God has treated us.