Colossians 4:1
Masters, give to your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
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(1) Just and equal.—The word “equal,” or, rather, the substantive so translated, has the sense either of “equity” or “equality.” The former is far commoner (especially in connection with justice), and probably all that is intended here. At the same time, the idea running through the passage is of a common fellow-service to Christ of all alike, and in Colossians 3:11 we are reminded that “in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free.” Perhaps, therefore, St. Paul desired that his readers should remember that in some points all are literally equal before God.

Colossians 4:1. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just — Namely, competent food, Proverbs 31:15; wages, James 5:4; and suitable work, neither too much, Proverbs 12:10, nor too little, Proverbs 29:21; and equal — Or equitable, distinguishing the most faithful among them by particular rewards. See on Ephesians 6:9.4:1 The apostle proceeds with the duty of masters to their servants. Not only justice is required of them, but strict equity and kindness. Let them deal with servants as they expect God should deal with themselves.Masters, give unto your servants ... - See the notes at Ephesians 6:9.

That which is just and equal - What they ought to have; what is fairly their due. The apostle here, probably, refers to bondmen or slaves, and the propriety of this rule is apparent. Such persons were subject to their masters' control; their time and services were at their disposal, and they could not enforce their just and equal claims by an appeal to the laws. They were, therefore, dependent on the equity and kindness of their masters. There can be no doubt that not a few who were converted to the Christian faith were held to involuntary servitude (see 1 Corinthians 7); and it is as clear that the apostles did not design to make a violent disruption of these bonds, or to lead the slaves to rise and murder their masters; see the notes at 1 Timothy 6:1-4. But it is equally clear that they meant to represent slavery as a hard and undesirable condition; that they intended to instruct the slaves to embrace the earliest opportunity to be free which was presented 1 Corinthians 7:21; and that they meant to suggest such considerations, and to lay down such principles as would lead masters to emancipate their slaves, and thus ultimately to abolish it. Among these principles are such as these:

(1) That all men were of one and the same blood; Acts 17:26.

(2) that they were all redeemed by the same Saviour, and were brethren; 1 Timothy 6:2; Plm 1:16. If redeemed; if they were "brethren;" if they were heirs of glory, they were not "chattels," or "things;" and how could a Christian conscientiously hold or regard them as property?

(3) that they were to "render them that which was just and equal." What would follow from this if fairly applied? What would be just and equal to a man in those circumstances? Would it not be.

(a) to compensate him fairly for his labor; to furnish him an adequate remuneration for what he had earned? But this would strike a blow at the root of slavery - for one of the elementary principles of it is, that there must be "unrequited labor;" that is, the slave must earn as much more than he receives as will do his part in maintaining the master in idleness, for it is of the very essence of the system that he is to be maintained in indolence by the slaves which he owns - or just so far as he owns a slave. If he were disposed to earn his own living, he would not need the labor of slaves. No one ever yet became the permanent owner of a slave from benevolence to him, or because he desired to pay him fully for his work, or because he meant himself to work in order to maintain his slave in indolence.

(b) If a man should in fact render to his slaves "that which is just and equal," would he not restore them to freedom? Have they not been deprived of their liberty by injustice, and would not "justice" restore it? What has the slave done to forfeit his liberty? If he should make him "equal" in rights to himself, or to what he is by nature, would he not emancipate him? Has he not been reduced to his present condition by withholding that which is "equal?" Has he "equal" rights, and "equal" privileges with other men? Has he not been cut off from them by denying him the equality to which he is entitled in the arrangements of God's government? Can he be held at all without violating all the just notions of equality? Though, therefore, it may be true that this passage only enjoins the rendering of that which was" just" and "equal" in their condition as slaves, yet it contains a principle which would" lay the axe at the root" of slavery, and would lead a conscientious Christian to the feeling that his slaves ought to be free. These principles actually effected the freedom of slaves in the Roman empire in a few centuries after Christianity was introduced, and they are destined to effect it yet all over the world.

Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven - Notes, Ephesians 6:9.


Col 4:1-18. Exhortations Continued. To Prayer: Wisdom in Relation to the Unconverted: As to the Bearers of the Epistle, Tychicus and Onesimus: Closing Salutations.

1. give—Greek "render": literally, "afford."

equal—that is, as the slaves owe their duties to you, so you equally owe to them your duties as masters. Compare "ye masters do the same things" (see on [2430]Eph 6:9). Alford translates, "fairness," "equity," which gives a large and liberal interpretation of justice in common matters (Phm 16).

knowing—(Col 3:24).

ye also—as well as they.Colossians 4:1 The duty of masters towards their servants.

Colossians 4:2-4 A general exhortation to perseverance in prayer,

Colossians 4:5 discreet conduct,

Colossians 4:6 and well-ordered speech.

Colossians 4:7-9 The apostle commendeth Tychicus and Onesimus, by whom

he sent this Epistle,

Colossians 4:10-18 and concludeth with divers salutations, and a blessing.

That this verse doth refer to the foregoing chapter, and that it was unadvisedly divided from it, is generally agreed.

Masters: having put servants upon their duty, he doth here engage all those who have a just right over servants to mind their own duty toward those under their command.

Give unto your servants that which is just; though your extract or estate hath advanced you above them in human society, yet yoa have the same nature and infirmities that they have, and (as in the foregoing verse) must appear with them before the same Judge and rewarder at the same tribunal. And the apostle doth elsewhere, Ephesians 6:9, require of masters in their superior relation, what he doth of servants in their inferior one, to do the same things, i.e. not the particular offices of their servants, but, according to general rules of right reason, that which, by the law of God, nature, and nations, is common to and incumbent on all relatives, Romans 13:7,8 Ga 5:13 Ephesians 6:9. As he doth here require masters to do their servants right, give to them that which is their due for soul and body, Genesis 18:19 Exodus 12:44; with respect to work, that it be neither too much nor too little, Proverbs 12:10 29:21; to food, that it be convenient for nourishment, not luxury, Proverbs 27:27 31:15 Luke 12:42 15:17; wages, Exodus 2:21 Jam 5:4; and recompence, Deu 15:13.

And equal; ye are likewise to give them that which is equal, or equitable, as well as just, which implies you should not be cruel to them, or discourage them; as you expect they should serve you with good will, so you should govern them wisely, and be good and gentle to them, Psalm 101:2 1 Peter 2:18, who are faithful, allowing them seasonable rest and refreshment, Deu 15:14, not despising their prudent answers, Job 31:13,14, but showing them favour in sickness as well as in health, 2 Kings 5:5,6 Pr 14:35 Matthew 8:6.

Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven; and that upon this weighty reason, intimated before, that he above, whom you serve, will treat you as you do them; this you may be assured of, Ephesians 6:8,9. If you expect favour at his hands, when he comes to distribute rewards and punishments, show it now to your inferiors, who will then appear as your fellow servants, when you must give an account of your stewardship, Matthew 24:49-51, with Luke 16:2.

Masters, give unto your servants,.... This verse properly belongs to the preceding chapter, with which it should have been concluded. It is indeed strange, that those who made the division of chapters and verses should separate this from the former chapter, to which it so manifestly belongs, and begin a new one with it, when it has no connection with what follows; for the apostle having observed the duty of servants to their masters, proceeds to direct masters to the discharge of their duty to their servants, by giving them

that which is just and equal: proper food and raiment, which is sufficient and fitting for them; the wages due unto them by law or contract; using them with gentleness and humanity, taking care of them when under affliction, and in sickness; encouraging the diligent and laborious by an addition to their salaries; correcting the disobedient within just bounds, not with too much rigour and severity; and carrying it with an even hand to all, not preferring or indulging one before another, without any reason:

knowing that ye also have a master in heaven: See Gill on Ephesians 6:9.

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Colossians 4:1. Τὴν ἰσότητα] not: equity, for the word signifies aequalitas, not aequitas, i.e. ἐπιείκεια (in opposition to Steiger, Huther, de Wette, Ewald, Bleek, and most expositors), but: equality (2 Corinthians 8:13 f.; very often in Plato, Polyb. ii. 38. 8, vi. 8. 4; Lucian, Herm. 22, Zeux. 5, also the passages from Philo in Wetstein, and the LXX. Job 36:29; Zechariah 4:7), so that ye, namely, regard and treat the slaves as your equals. What is herein required, therefore, is not a quality of the master, and in particular not the freedom from moral unevenness,[168] which is equivalent to δικαιοσύνη (Hofmann), but a quality of the relation, which is to be conceded; it is not at all, however, the equalization of the outward relation, which would be a de facto abolition of slavery, but rather the equality, which, amidst a continued subsistence of all the outward diversity, is brought about in the Christian κοινωνία by kindly treatment. While ΤῸ ΔΊΚΑΙΟΝ (what is right) expresses that which, according to the Christian consciousness of right, belongs as matter of right to the slave, τὴν ἰσότητα requires the concession of the parity (égalité) implied in the Christian ἀδελφότης. Paul has in view (in opposition to Hofmann) merely Christian slaves (whom he has exhorted in Colossians 3:22 f.); otherwise, in fact, the conception of ἰσότης would be not at all appropriate. It is just by the Christian status of both parties that he desires to see their inequality in other respects ethically counterbalanced. A commentary on τὴν ἰσότητα is supplied by Philemon 1:16. At variance with the context, Erasmus, Melanchthon, Vatablus, Cornelius a Lapide, Böhmer, and others understand the equality of impartial treatment, according to which the master does not prefer one slave to another. This would not in fact yield any definite moral character of the treatment in itself, nor would it suit all the cases where there is only one slave. As to the middle παρέχεσθε (Titus 2:7; Acts 19:24), observe that it is based simply on the conception of the self-activity of the subject; Kühner, II 1, p. 97.

ΕἸΔΌΤΕς] consciousness, that serves as a motive, as in Colossians 3:24.

ΚΑῚ ὙΜΕῖς Κ.Τ.Λ.] Theophylact says correctly: ὭΣΠΕΡ ἘΚΕῖΝΟΙ ὙΜᾶς, ΟὝΤΩ ΚΑῚ ὙΜΕῖς ἜΧΕΤΕ ΚΎΡΙΟΝ, and that in heaven, namely Christ.

[168] This conception, coincident with δικαιοσύνη, does not pertain to ἰσότης at all; and just as little to ἴσος in Soph. Phil. 685, where ἴσος ἐν γʼ ἴσοις ἀνήρ is nothing else than par inter pares, namely, to his friends a friend, to his foes a foe. Comp. Schneidewin in loc. At many other passages ἴσος denotes the equality of right, that which is impartial, and is hence often combined with δίκαιος (righteous in the narrower sense). But ἰσότης is always (even in Polyb. ii. 38. 8) equality; see e.g. Plato, Rep. 658 C, where it is said of the democracy: ἰσότητά τινα ὁμοίως ἴσοις τε καὶ ἀνίσοις διανέμουσα, that is, it distributes uniformly to equal and unequal a certain equality. In such passages the conception of égalité comes into view with special clearness. Hofmann has explained our passage as if ἰσότης and ὁμαλότης or λειότης (levelness), were identical conceptions.Colossians 4:1. ἰσότητα. The literal meaning is “equality,” and Meyer takes it so here (so Ol., Haupt), explaining not of equality conferred by emancipation, but of the treatment of the slave by his master as a brother in Christ. It may, in spite of Oltramare’s denial, mean “equity,” and the combination with δίκ. suggests this meaning here. The master should regulate his treatment of his slave not by caprice, but by equity.—παρέχεσθε: “supply on your part,” a dynamic middle.Ch. Colossians 4:1. The subject concluded

1. Masters] Cp. Ephesians 6:9.

give unto] Provide for. The Greek verb suggests deliberate care.

that which is … equal] In the Greek, equality, equity. The word in the classics often means “equality” in the political sense, as against arbitrary privilege; and the Gospel, by publishing for ever the spiritual equality of all men before God, secures all that is vital in that matter. But the meaning “impartiality,” “equity,” is more in place here; the master is not commanded to surrender his status, but to respect the interests of the slave as faithfully as his own, and to banish caprice and favouritism. This, consistently carried out, was a long and sure step towards the end of slavery; for nothing could be a more direct contradiction to the root-idea of ancient slavery. See pp. 156, etc. below. “Your slaves should find you fathers rather than masters” (Jerome).

knowing … heaven] Nearly verbatim as Ephesians 6:9. The Lord’s sovereignty is the true guarantee of human liberty.Colossians 4:1. Τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα, justice and equity) Comp. τὰ αὐτὰ, [ye masters do] the same things [unto them], Ephesians 6:9, note.Verse 1. - (See Ch 3.) Masters, etc.

The best texts attach this verse to the preceding chapter.

Render (παρέχεσθε)

The Greek implies on your part.

Equal (τὴν ἰσότητα)

Lit., the equality. Not equality of condition, but the brotherly equality growing out of the Christian relation in which there is neither bond nor free. See on Plm 1:16.

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