“Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” (1 Corinthians 7:21, AV)
In my lifetime, I have worked for many bosses. Some were good employers and others not so good. As I worked, I always thought it would be good to “be the man.” That is to be the boss, my own man. I remember when I managed a printing plant in Savannah Georgia. During my first week on the job, I had a parade of employees march into my office. Each one had the same story. The person that hired them apparently told them they could move into a supervisor’s position someday. They seemingly thought I could immediately promote them so that they would not be on the bottom of the totem pole any longer. I guess this desire to be the man is fairly common.
Well, as the plant manager, I still had a boss. Granted, I had a higher position, but I was still not the man. Sometime later I took a job with another company where I would have more independence. This was still not the ideal. I remember travelling with the boss to Denmark on business with one of our customers. My boss started to berate me over something in the car with the customer. I had rented the car in my name and nearly left in a tizzy without notice to go back to the airport and leave the boss stranded. I did not, but just got over it.
Later, I went out on my own doing consulting work with printing and paper converting plants. Now, I thought I was the man. But I wasn’t. No every customer I had was now the man. I did not have just one boss, but many. Yet, I have to say that that consulting job was very good. Since I worked for myself, I would often tell people that sometimes my boss (me) was really good, and other times really a tyrant.
In Paul’s day there were masters and slaves. The word translated “servant,” doulos, refers to a slave or a bondservant either one that entered involuntary or voluntary (Strong G1401). In those days some indicate that perhaps fifty percent of the population may have been slaves. They were not slaves as we think of them today. They were often educated and cultured. Many performed highly qualified functions in society. Some lived in good estate while others in poverty.
In this backdrop, Paul tells the “servant,” to “abide in the same calling wherein he was called” (1 Corinthians 7:20, AV). In other words, the believing slave was not to worry about freeing himself from this servitude. He or she were to serve the Lord where they were. Paul does say that if they can be made free, then they should also make the best use of their freedom also in serving the Lord.
Early on in my Christian experience, I learned this same lesson, and have also given this counsel to others. At the time I thought, should I quit my job so that I might have a greater influence by serving in the ministry. Then someone stated that God calls some to the pastorate, but not all. Often, He calls some to be clerks, dentists, engineers, laborers, etc. Moreover, regardless of the calling one is to minister for the Lord in that calling. Yet, in some cases, God calls people from one vocation to another. In that case the believer is to minister in the new vocation for the Lord.
In other words, if a person feels led to gain education to advance, or enter another vocation, they have the prerogative to do so. Yet, wherever they go, they are there to serve the Lord. The key is to constantly abide with God (v24).