Servant of God or Slave to Self & Sin?

Romans 6:20-22

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

St. Paul speaks about us being slaves to sin  – we act at times as though we cannot do otherwise but obey our sinful nature.  However, he sees us being able to choose a different way – we can choose to make ourselves obedient to God, and thus servants/slaves of God.  Sin and righteousness are not the only things to which we can become enslaved.  Certainly people can become slaves to themselves – so totally trapped in self-centeredness and the demands of their own mind and bodies that they behave as slaves to their own desires. 

“Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  (Romans 6:16)

In the desert fathers we find this story about enslavement – we can become enslaved to anything that we value more than God or more than neighbor.  It is love ultimately which frees us from all such enslavement:

There are times when a person will ignore large sums of money; nevertheless when it comes to a small needle, one’s attachment to it may cause one much trouble. Then, the small needle replaces the large amount of money. Therefore, one becomes a slave of the needle, or the monastic cap, or the handkerchief, or the book,  instead of being a servant of God. (Amma Dionysia, In the Heart of the Desert, pg. 130)

Humility: A Godly Disposition

Matthew 8:5-13

As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”  And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

St. John Chrysostom commented on this passage:

What did the centurion say? “Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof.” The pain of his servant’s sickness and the demands made by illness in his own house did not make the centurion forget his godly disposition. Even in the midst of disaster, he recognized the superiority of the Master. This is why he said: “Only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I, too, have soldiers subject to me; and I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”      (St. John Chrysostom,  St. John Chrysostom on the Incomprehensible Nature of God, pg. 277)