Employee Or Slave?

Acts 16:16-19

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you[a] a way of salvation.” 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.

Scholars tell us that the fortunetelling done by this girl was done involuntarily, that it was a demonic spirit that spoke through her. This spirit uses the term “Most High God” to talk about who it is these men are preaching about. This demonic spirit recognizes the presence of God.

When we read what she says it is sometimes difficult to understand why Paul would be upset about it. But it is believed that she is being disrespectful or saying it in a mocking fashion because it is not she who is speaking but a spirit speaking through her. Paul has had enough and he casts out the demon by calling on Jesus’ name.

Her owners are furious because they have been making quite a bit of money from her fortunetelling. They did not give her the information, they did not invite her participation, and they give her none of the profits. She is a slave and is only a possession to them, although a valuable possession because of the income they get from her activities. Once Paul has cast out the demon she is worthless to them and they have lost their comfortable way of making a great deal of wealth with no real effort from themselves. They don’t see what Paul has done as rescuing this girl from a demon but rather he has destroyed their business.

This woman is indeed a slave, a human, trafficked by owners who insist that she perform for their profit, against her will or ability to choose, with none of the profits going into her pocket. When she is unable to earn money for them she loses any value to them even though, as a person, nothing has changed.

Slavery and trafficking of humans, sadly, is not a new phenomenon. Any time a human is forced or coerced to engage in activities against his/her will, it is slavery. When humans are bought and sold for profit it is human trafficking. Human trafficking or any kind of modern day slavery is morally wrong, yet often it can be right in front of us and we do not recognize it or name it for what it is.

Like the young girl of Acts 16, there are many young girls who are waiting for the servants of God to release them from evil forces.

Rev. Dr. Patricia Donahoo

Disciples Women, Indianapolis, IN Women and Children

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