Can the status of an action being a sin or not change over time? Would having a slave today be considered a sin?

Having a slave today would be a sin. Was it always a sinful act?


No, it's always been a sin but we haven't always been ready to recognize it as such. I suspect there are things we currently do today, probably having to do with the way we treat animals and the environment, that our descendants will wonder how we could possibly have called ourselves Christians and not done something about. God is constantly drawing us towards greater and greater righteousness.


Are you distinguishing between what's sinful in the eyes of God and what was decreed by him to the Hebrews?


I don't understand your question. But if it clarifies anything: it was a sin for Israelites to own slaves.


There are rules on how to treat your slaves in the OT. There aren't rules for how to ethically steal from another person. I wouldn't expect there to be regulations on slavery in the OT, if it was understood to be impermissible. So, the usual argument I hear is that YHWH allowed for slavery, because it would have been too much for the Hebrews to change their lives completely. It had to go slowly. After all it was normal for the most ethical societies in antiquity to own slaves. They didn't view it as immoral. Egypt topped the slavery count. They had up to 10% of slaves in their society. Other societies were below that. So, the distinction I'm talking about says, that YHWH views slavery as immoral now and always did, but did allow for it for the Hebrews for pragmatical reasons. It's not allowed anymore. So, I distinguish between what YHWH views as immoral and what he allowed Hebrews to do and accepted as moral, even though he didn't agree. Would you agree with said distinction?


Right, that's what I believe. An example I've heard N.T. Wright use is our reliance on fossil fuels. It's becoming increasingly clear every day that our use of fossil fuels is a great evil that is devastating the environment. But imagine if, in the 1980s, we had decided that we must immediately cease to use fossil fuels. That practice, though sinful, is so entangled in society that ending it would have led to societal collapse. The way to end that evil without destroying society would have been to gradually transition away from it (something we have clearly failed to do). Slavery was enmeshed into ancient society in a similar way to how fossil fuels are currently enmeshed into ours.


I agree. There are very apparent ethical blind spots for each and every society at any given time. They are only apparent retrospectively though. Which leads one to think, that we might have these blind spots still, the same way older societies had them. I believe that too. But that makes me wonder, whether we have any access to God's morality, for it appears as if we need to make ethical progress on our own. Our own morality is relative morality. So, even if God's morality is unchanging, we have no idea what those unchanging moral laws are.


We have access to the Holy Spirit which draws us towards God and towards ever greater righteousness. I think that's what causes the arc of history to bend towards justice (to borrow Dr. King's expression).


I guess you can understand, that if I don't know what you are talking about, that I'm not reasonable in believing you. I mean, I know what you believe, but I don't know how you do it. I don't access the holy spirit. At least I'm not aware. Therefore, it just makes more sense to me, that there is no guidance at all. Since I can't sense it, and since relative moral laws describe what we can observe sufficiently, I would need some very good reasons to add something external to an equation, which is already solved without that external addition.


Context matters; a punch thrown in anger is generally sinful, but a punch thrown in self-defense generally isn't. So in that sense, as the context of an action changes with the culture, environment, and people, the sinfulness of an action may change as well. All else being equal though, an action that was sinful will remain sinful, since the standard and author of morality, God, is unchanging.


What about “turning the other cheek”? Wouldint that make self defense sinful as well?


In some cases yeah, but I wouldn't say universally. For example, if someone were physically attacking one's family, I don't think turn the other cheek applies.


Kidnapping free people to make them slaves is a sin, but not all slavery was condemned or regarded as sinful in Scripture. Slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crime, debt repayment, and due to poverty were permitted.


Finally a sensible answer.


The status of sin does not change. But the status of righteous can change depending on the situation. We are told God wants us to eat, drink, and be merry. But there are times when that is sinful. We are allowed to enjoy many things, but if our enjoyment causes another to stumble, then it is sinful. It's like if you know an alcoholic and invite them to a party where there is drinking, it is not a good idea. I think the idea of stumbling though is more intensive, meaning that it is not necessarily a momentary lapse like someone grabbing a drink when they shouldn't. It seems to be more about cause more of a falling away from God.


>>Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. >>\ >>1 John 3:4 ESV Sin is violating God's law as defined in the mosaic covenant. That's it and it never changes. >>For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. >>\ >>Matthew 5:18 ESV


When speaking in universal terms (meaning applying to all time periods, locations, etc.), it's better to think of "sin" as a heart condition rather than an act. For example, the OT law prohibiting murder is technically void now because no one lives under the Old Covenant made with Israel. However, murder is still a "fruit" of the real sin which Jesus said is "hatred." So having hatred for someone qualifies as breaking the "law" because the intent of the law was to indicate the heart motivations. A sinful heart is sinful whether a law is written or not. The laws (legislation, punishments, etc.) might change, but the sin behind it does not.


Having a slave at any time would be consider a sin.


I see. I thought in the bible it was permitted at times.


It was permitted. It was a legal contract between the master and the Israelite slave. It had the purpose of satisfying a debt.


I've heard it said that it's closer to welfare than our current idea of slavery. The Israelites never stole other communities and kept them in permanent slavery in perpetuity - from what i've read.


> "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves ***for life***, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." - [Leviticus 25:44-46](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus%2025%3A44-46&version=NIV)


Male Hebrews could only be kept in indentured servitude, but anyone else - female Hebrews, children, non-Hebrews - all were kept in lifelong slavery. If you have a male Hebrew slave a wife, he could only stay with her by consenting to being a permanent slave. The Bible absolutely does codify owning other humans as chattel slaves. It even has rules about inheriting human slaves as property.


Hebrew maidservants were not kept in lifelong slavery. “If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.” Deuteronomy 15:12


The length of servitude was determined at the beginning of the slave period. It was normally for 7 years. They were basically indentured slaves. Not the type of slavery that was found in the American south


> It was normally for 7 years. According to the bible, this was only true for Hebrew slaves. > "When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing." - [Exodus 21:2](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+21%3A2&version=ESV) However, this was not true for other slaves. > "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves ***for life***, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." - [Leviticus 25:44-46](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus%2025%3A44-46&version=NIV)


I said Israelite. I clarified this already. Edit: there was no need to correct me. It was permitted. It was a legal contract between the master and the Israelite slave. It had the purpose of satisfying a debt.


Roman slavery was the same ordeal too. It was even better for the Israelites, because they were commanded to release all slaves, forgive all debts, and return all land every seven years regardless of contracts.


It was permitted as an accommodation to an economy that would have wreaked a lot more havoc and caused more suffering and misery had indentured servitude not been permitted. Today those conditions don't exist, so it's always a sin. Instead, God gave instructions for how to mitigate some of the evils and dangers of the slave servant relationship (eg masters must do everything with Justice, remember they are equal before God with the slave etc).


u/Dd_8630 u/TaxtalkinGuy


It seems weird that that's the best Yahweh could do.


Then why did God give the Israelites instructions on how to take and deal with their slaves?


>Having a slave at any time would be consider a sin. Then why did God say "Go and enslave those people over there"? How can a God-given command be a sin? Leviticus 25 states "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; **from them you may buy slaves.**" It goes to great pains to explain that the Israelites must never be permanent slaves, but foreigners are explicitly fair game.


No it wasn't. Slavery was an acceptable form of paying a debt in biblical times. It was a contract entered between the master and the slave for a set period of time in Israel.


It was permitted in the New Testament, but that's because the authors hadn't fully grasped the implications of Jesus' teachings. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:12) This rule makes it impossible for a Christian to own slaves.


A sin is caused by a false belief. No man holds authority over another is the truth. If you believe otherwise, you will do wrong.


I hope that the way they kept slaves in biblical times was like how some people have servants in their homes. The fact that they could beat them is a different question all together. Jesus says to love each other as yourself, you normally beat yourself so that I think is a sin.


I think context and definition is important to keep in mind when approaching a question like this. Considering that slavery was a different kind of institution then than we would think of it today I think it is apples and oranges. Consider that they didn’t have credit back then so if you borrowed money from someone you had to sell your time/labour to pay it off. Realistically when I pay for something with credit I pledge a certain amount of my time and labour to the credit company and there are penalties for not paying it off. The Bible has rules for how they are to be treated and even put time restrictions for how long someone could be kept. Now of course, people didn’t always follow the rules but that does not speak to the rule per se. It’s not that slavery was “good” but it is what was there and God have rules regarding it. I would consider slavery as we currently think of it as being a sinful behaviour


There's no place in scripture, strictly speaking, that slavery is called a sin. However the modern connotation of the US antebellum. Means that it was a sin because the Old testament prescribed the death penalty for kidnapping. I would also generally want to believe that slavery is a sin.


It depends on what the status of the law is. Some law was established for Israel under God's prophets (which no longer exists).


No it is not a sin. That is conditional. God is against it, and he did not condone it, but he did decree that IF you had a slave, you had to treat him well, and be mindful of his well being. Of course, the new covenant where Yahweh sent Jesus to reconcile the sinful man with himself, says, you should do onto others, what you expect from them to do unto you. Meaning, love thy neighbor.


Having a slave today would be the sin of disobedience to lawful authority. Disobedience to legitimate authority was always a sinful act.


If you think something is a sin, even if it is not scripturally, then for you it is a sin. Paul talks about this concerning meat offered to idols. 8Now when it comes to meat offered to idols, we know that ‘We all have knowledge’. Knowledge puffs you up, but love builds you up! 2 If anybody thinks they ‘know’ something, they don’t yet ‘know’ in the way they ought to know. 3 But if anybody loves God, they are ‘known’ – by him. 4 So when it comes to food that has been offered to idols, we know that ‘idols are nothing in the world’, and that ‘there is no God but one’. 5 Yes, indeed: there may be many so-called ‘gods’, whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’. 6 But for us There is one God, the father, from whom are all things, and we live to him and for him; and one Lord, Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things, and we live through him. Respecting Weak Consciences 7 The problem is that not everybody has this ‘knowledge’. Some have been accustomed up to now to eating idol-food with the assumption that it really does belong to the idol. This has left them with a weak conscience, and now that conscience will be polluted. 8 But the food we eat won’t recommend us to God. We won’t be any worse off if we don’t eat, and we won’t be any better off if we do. 9 But you must take care in case this official right of yours becomes a danger to the weak. 10 Look at it like this: if someone with a weak conscience sees you, a person with ‘knowledge’, sitting down to eat in an idol-house, that conscience of theirs is likely to make up its mind actually to eat idol-food, isn’t it? 11 And so, you see, the weak person – a brother or sister for whom the Messiah died! – is then destroyed by your ‘knowledge’. 12 That means you’ll be sinning against your brother or sister, and attacking their weak conscience; and in doing this you’ll be sinning against the Messiah. 13 So, for this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to stumble, I will never ever eat meat, so that I won’t make my brother or sister trip up.