Romans 6:16, 23, Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? …For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are all slaves. Yet we are not slaves as we often think of the word. Thanks to our history with slavery in our country, anytime we think of slavery we think of chattel slavery, which treats slaves less than human and often tortures them. That was not the slavery of Paul’s day. Here, Paul uses the word δοῦλος for “slave,” which more accurately means “bondservant,” and a bondservant was someone who volunteered to give up their freedom in order to serve someone and pay off their debts. What makes us unique as slaves, then, is that we choose our master.
Sin pretends to be freedom, which comes in copious forms. Sin promises instant gratification, lordship over all things, and a false sense of control. As sinners, we are all addicts. An addict’s addiction tricks them into thinking they have control over their chosen substance when in reality, the substance has utter control over them (and I’m speaking from experience). Likewise, we are all addicted to sin. Sin has utter control over us and tricks us into thinking we have control over it. Sin wins in the end because its wages is death. Every sin, no matter how “great” or “small,” is punishable by death.
Yet Christ says He has a different kind of yoke or burden. He offers a slavery to righteousness. We hear this and immediately think it’s bad. To attach the word “slave” to “righteousness” seems antithetical to us. Surely, they cannot belong together. Again, it is not slavery as we think of it. As Christians, we are slaves—bondservants—to Christ’s righteousness. It is His righteousness in which we experience true freedom—freedom from sin. We no longer have to choose sin over Christ. In the Holy Spirit, Christ gives us the ability to choose Him over sin. This is what it means to be a bondservant to righteousness. Slavery to righteousness, we think, is unrewarding, but our ultimate reward as bondservants to Christ’s righteousness is the free gift of God, which is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord.