Under the Yoke
1 Timothy 6:1-2
Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor…

The phrase "under the yoke" fitly expresses the pitiable condition of slaves, to whom Paul here addresses himself. Of all the hideous iniquities which have cried to heaven for redress, slavery, which places a man in such a position to his fellow, is one of the worst. It is as pernicious to the owner as it is to the slave. Dr. Thomson has well said, "It darkens and depraves the intellect; it paralyzes the hand of industry; it is the nourisher of agonizing fears and of sullen revenge; it crushes the spirit of the bold; it is the tempter, the murderer, and the tomb of virtue; and either blasts the felicity of those over whom it domineers, or forces them to seek for relief from their sorrows in the gratifications and the mirth and the madness of the passing hour." In the days of our Lord and of His apostles, slavery was a time-honoured and widely ramified institution. It was recognized in the laws as well as in the usages of the empire. So numerous were those "under the yoke," that Gibbon, taking the empire as a whole, considers it a moderate computation to set down the number of slaves as equal to the number of freemen. In Palestine the proportion would probably be less, but in Rome and other great cities the proportion would be far greater. Christianity, with its proclamation of equality and brotherhood, came face to face with this gigantic system of legalized property in human flesh, and we want to know how the gospel dealt with it.

I. LET US FIRST SEE WHAT CHRISTIANITY DID NOT DO FOR THE SLAVES. That the followers of Him who cared most for the poor and needy, and who longed to break every yoke, pitied these slaves in their abject and humiliating condition, goes without saying. But they certainly did not urge the slaves to escape, or to rebel, nor did they make it an absolute necessity to church membership that a slave-owner should set all his slaves free. We may be quite sure that such a man as Paul would not be insensible to the evils of slavery, and further, that it was not from any deficiency in moral courage that he did not urge manumission; but told some slaves to remain in the condition in which they were, and, by God's help, to triumph over the difficulties and sorrows peculiar to their lot. Strange as this may seem at first sight, was it not wise? Did it not prove in the long-run by far the best thing for the slaves themselves, leading to a more complete extirpation of slavery than if more drastic methods had been tried at first?


1. It taught masters their responsibilities.

2. It inculcated on the slaves a course of conduct which would often lead to their legal freedom. Under Roman law, liberty was held out as an encouragement to slaves to be honest, industrious, sober, and loyal; and, therefore, any Christian slave who obeyed the laws of Christ would be on the high road to emancipation. Liberty thus won by character was a better thing than liberty won by force or by fraud, and was more accordant with the genius of Christianity.

3. It gave dignity to those who had been despised and who had despised themselves. The work, which had once been a drudgery, became a sacred service; and this your toil and mine may surely be.

4. But, besides all this, Christianity laid down principles which necessitated the ultimate destruction of slavery. It taught that all men had a common origin; that God had made of one blood all nations; and that men of every class were to join together in the wonderful prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven." Learn, then, to trust to principles rather than to organization. Let life be more to you than law, and change of life more than change of law. Care for character first, believing that circumstance will care for itself. And, finally, in conflict with evils deep and wide-spread as ancient slavery, be patient, and have unwavering faith in the God of righteousness and love.

(A. Rowland, LL. B.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

WEB: Let as many as are bondservants under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and the doctrine not be blasphemed.

The Wicked Lives of Christians no Argument Against the Truth of Christianity
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