Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:21-24)
Paul dealt with questions and controversies among the Corinthian Christians regarding marriage and singleness. It seems many of those who were married thought they would be more spiritual if they were single, and many of those who were single had questions about getting married.
One general theme in this chapter is, “You can honor and serve the Lord in your present situation.” It’s common for the single person to think, “If I were married, then I could really serve Jesus.” It’s also common for married people to think, “If I were single, then I could truly serve the Lord.” What is often missed is the urgent truth that we can serve God in our present circumstance.
Paul used an extreme example to illustrate this: slavery. He told those who became believers as slaves, do not be concerned about it. A slave can please God as a slave. He should not live thinking, “I can’t do anything for God now, but I could if I was a free man.” He can, and should, serve God as he was able in the present. Paul’s real point was about marriage and singleness, but slavery illustrated the same principle.
However, Paul wanted them to know that just because a slave could please God, it didn’t mean that Jesus never wanted a slave to be made free. If a slave had the opportunity to gain his freedom, he should take advantage of it.
Along that idea, Paul stated an important principle: Do not become slaves of men. This is true not only regarding literal slavery, but also spiritually. We are never to put ourselves under the inappropriate control or influence of others. It’s easy to allow someone who is gifted, esteemed, or famous to do our thinking and seeking of God for us. We are followers of Jesus, not slavishly devoted to those whom God may raise up to be leaders among believers.
Paul stated the main idea once again: let each one remain with God in that calling in which he was called. This principle applies across a broad spectrum – married or unmarried, circumcised or uncircumcised, slave or free. We can seek God’s best and be used by Him right where we are. Of course, if one is in a sinful occupation, they should leave it; but apart from that we can bloom wherever God plants us. All the while, we’re open to a change in our circumstance, but we know God can and will bless and use us right where we are. Don’t wait to honor and serve Jesus.