Home > 2nd Chances, Commentary > The Little Slave Girl

The Little Slave Girl

He is Paul.

Formerly he was Saul the man who had persecuted the early church.  His hand had been behind the imprisonment of many Christians.

But now he is Paul. And, ironically, he is now sitting in jail because of his faith in the Christ that he had earlier worked so hard against.  Today he is writing a letter to one of the churches that he had been instrumental in starting up.  It’s a church in the Roman province of Philippi.

Paul bends over the parchment and carefully begins penning the words that reflect the passion he holds for those that would receive his letter.

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants {slaves} of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. … For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Nearly 1950 years have passed since Paul put those words to parchment.  As I read those words, I wondered who it was that he was writing.  It’s not hard to imagine him going through the faces in his mind as he thinks about those in Philippi.  But I wanted concrete names to put with my imaginings.

I was not disappointed to find that Acts chapter 16 actually records 3 lives that Paul came into contact with as the church began in Philippi.  Many of you may be very familiar with the details of that story but just in case, here is a quick synopsis:

  • Lydia the seller of purple is the first person that we see converting to Christianity.  She is a woman of means and is very generous in allowing her home to be used by the emerging church in Philippi.
  • The Jailor is the second person that we are given details about his conversion.  He witnesses the worshipful response of Paul and Silas after they have been flogged and then shackled in the prison cell.  He also witnesses the earthquake that frees all of the prisoners and is about to take his own life in fear that some of the prisoners have escaped.  God does not allow any of the prisoners to flee for physical freedom because He has a greater story of spiritual redemption that He is conducting in this working class gentleman.

These two stories are book ends for another encounter that is capture in the same chapter.

Luke captures that encounter in these words:

It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”  She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.  But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities…

There are times when I study scripture and it is easy to rejoice as in the case of Lydia and the Jailor.  But there are times that I don’t know what to do with the other parts – like the story of the slave girl.  I have turned this story over in my mind in so many ways and I keep coming back to these two points:

  • Her encounter with the living God left her with no worth in her masters eyes.  She had become a value-less slave.
  • No further scripture is given to let us know what happened to the little slave girl beyond that encounter.

She is a broken instrument and we are left to our imaginings of what became of her.

I wonder as I read the opening statement of the letter to the Philippians if Paul’s mind paused over the face of a little slave girl as he looked back to the beginnings of the church there.   And did those reflections have any impact on the words he chose to associate himself as a slave to Christ Jesus.

Maybe.

But I have to believe that there was at least one important distinction. Where we are left with an image of a broken instrument of no value in the example of the slave girl, we see the polar opposite in the bonds that Paul raises.  His shackles were formed from chains of love purchased at the greatest price.  He is a willing bond servant to the One who saw enough value in him to leave the very throne of heaven to purchase an eternal freedom.

And while there is celebration in those thoughts, there is still heart ache for the little slave girl.

How many slave girls walk around us every day mastered by that which sees no value in them?

Maybe you are someone who can relate to that slave girl.  Your story need not end in obscurity… you have a second chance at finding value in the eyes of love.

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  1. April 17, 2010 at 3:49 am

    i wonder about her too. i wonder – when she was delivered … did she follow the disciples around? or did she go back to her old lifestyle.

    it’s one of those questions that im just gonna have to wait and ask God to replay in heaven’s DVR =]

  2. April 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Tony: good to hear from you again. As I read that I had to reflect how I too was a little slave boy. course not in her way of slavery but a definite slave to sin. So glad there was a “Paul” who intervened and led me to the freer of slaves. Good thoughts here my friend. Oh, I too have to agree with Patricia: I wonder about her. Did she go back to the old way of life? Did Paul help set her up with some of his friends for mentoring and discipleship? (that is my guess).

  3. April 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Great thoughts, thank you. I just have to find hope in the slave girl. Though my value in the profit I make for my earthly masters is taken away. I trust the God of the birds and the lilies of the field will provide a much greater value in the profit I can bing to His kingdom.
    Somehow I believe and hope she went on to find her true value in God and in serving the Way.

  4. April 19, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you for this message,
    As one who blogs, I enjoy reading those of others because it causes me to think or consider things I have not before, as is the case here. God Bless
    Jim

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