food and work for the day, ethics pt. 11
There is continuity to this Passage, and the preceding ones, if we realize Paul is addressing ethical issues one by one. He seems to be knocking down doors and turning over tables that have historically divided nonbelievers, believers, and possibly even some of the Jews in his time. He is welcoming everyone to the table, by establishing ethics based on a new Judeo-Christian approach.
Paul’s approach is certainly not unique. There are all types of philosophical ethics, Virtue Lists, Household Codes, etc., being established in the Greco-Roman world. The Greco-Roman mythologies have shifted from the forefront, to a rather faded backdrop for discussing the higher virtues the great heroes of old used to embody.
In this article, Paul takes another look at the religious ethics of food. Then he touches on a rather touchy subject. We look at servitude, hopefully with applications for our day.
God has welcomed them
One man eats, and another fasts (Romans xiv.3). Again, the Jews often practice the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is certainly not uncommon among the Gentiles, although perhaps not quite so commonly practiced in some circles.
In our day, fasting is trending for those who are seeking to improve their overall health. Please consult your nutritionist or physician though.
The point is not whether or not one group fasts and another group does not. Paul places these “convictions” on an equal plane. I can call them group norms, or perhaps a code of ethics as they seem to be for the Jews, since this is all about Biblical ethics.
Paul also offers a way to stop the debate, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not,” and vice versa (verse 3).
We can hold to our convictions, without imposing them on others, and then judging them because they do not hold to our convictions: “for God hath received him.”
It is before their own lord
“Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another?” (Rom xiv.4)
If we are honest, there have been all types of employment from the dawn of time, including slavery and servitude. However, there are some very important ways the Hebrew Bible commands the people of God to treat those who work for them. After all, the deliverance from Egypt is repeated countless times throughout the Old Testament as a reminder.
Beyond the scope of this article, there are many Passages to be explored on the way people are to be treated well, whether natives or sojourners, among the people of God.
May I please make one thing clear. I am in no way endorsing any form of slavery. On the other hand, if the Hebraic Commands and norms were upheld, my opinion is their workers could have been treated with more equality than ours at times. At the very least, I would easily compare their interactions with other nations to modern Fair Trade ethics, which exceed ethical forms of trade.
- Do you get your mandatory 10-15 minute break every 2 hours on the dot?
- Do you have at least a 30 minute lunch when you work 4 hours?
- Is it a 1 hour lunch when you work 8 hours, with a 2nd 10-15 minute break to split up the 2nd half of your day?
It is entirely possible workers could have been
treated better in some aNE settings
than we treat ours today.
This could partially be because of our adherence to performance, productivity, and the underlying philosophy of utilitarianism.
Paul says Christians are not to judge each others’ servants (verse 4). In those day, when servitude was not always considered an evil, judging others’ workers could have been a problem. However, we may glean from this directive.
God has given everyone abilities and aptitudes, “for God is able to make him stand,” or, “It is before their own lord that they stand or fall” (verse 4.b; KJV, NRSV).
In this, we see a hint of a work ethic based not only on our ability to do the job, but also on God’s strength to help us succeed.