“God spoke to him (Abraham) in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’” (Acts 7:6-7)
It is evil not only to enslave people but also to provide a market for slavery by purchasing one. God hates slavery so much He’ll punish future generations of any society that allows slavery. In the U.S., we still have repercussions from slavery which may continue for many generations to come.
God uses Stephen to warn the rich leaders of the temple who also owned slaves. We forget that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, owned an Egyptian slave, Hagar. God made the promise of many descendants to Abraham and Hagar. God loved Hagar as much as He did Abraham even though she was a gentile (non-Jew). Jews had Egyptian slaves, and God did not like that Hagar and others like her were enslaved, so He intended to punish the Jews for having slaves. In turn, He will also punish the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews because two wrongs don’t make a right.
God doesn’t condone slavery. Exodus 21:16 says, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” So perhaps the Egyptian slaves had no means to feed themselves and sold themselves into slavery, so they could eat. But God wants us to help the poor, not enslave them.
God showed the Israelites how it felt to be slaves. Even though God found it necessary to punish them, He still loved them and rewarded them for the time they spent as slaves by giving them all the possessions of the Egyptians before their Exodus.
Father God, I praise you for showing us how to love and putting us in other people’s shoes when we don’t understand how they feel. Help me not to take advantage of people I don’t understand. Let me always act in love. In Christ’s name, I pray, amen.