(Posted February 14th 2019 @ 4:25 PM by: Melody Reever)
Four hundred years of slavery changes your perspective. A nation known as God’s people, whose common ancestor (Abraham) had a special friendship with God that was designed to be passed down, were now incapable of seeing themselves as anything but slaves.
So ingrained was this slave mentality that most parents didn’t bother to pass down stories of Abraham and his covenant with God. What was the point? Rather, their stories were tales of brutality and backbreaking labor; their lord and master was the Egyptian. So defeated were these Israelites that no one really took notice that the terms of the covenant that made them special were no longer kept. They were no longer kept because they were no longer remembered. The next generation was not given the opportunity to reject Abraham’s God because they had never been given the opportunity to accept Abraham’s God.
Instead, the slave parents taught their children how to behave when approached by the slave master.
“Never look our master in the eye. Keep your head down and silently accept their blows. If you do not, the punishment will be much greater,” the Israelite father would tell his sons.
“If an Egyptian asks anything of you,” continued the young women’s mothers, “you give it to them. Anything. Death surely awaits you if you refuse them.”
“They are in charge. We are their slaves,” the parents said, nearly in unison.
The father continued, “There is nothing we can do. Just accept that it is your future and learn to live within that future’s limitations.”
Dutifully the children would nod and scurry off to collect more wood, hay, and stubble for bricks.
But one day things changed when a man who had been raised as an Egyptian but trained as a true Israelite chose a side. While the parents of the other Israelite children were teaching them the proper way to be chastised, chained, and choked by the slaveholders, this man’s biological, Israelite mother was showing him the proper way to be righteous, revolutionary, and in relationship with the God of Abraham. That difference in training resulted in freedom for the children of Israel.
It had barely been a year since the man whose mother refused to bequeath a slave mentality to her son had led the Israelites to freedom. That man, Moses, sent twelve men to help strategize Israel’s conquest of a land of which many Israelites had never heard.
In time, the spies came back with stories. The land was everything it was supposed to be. A land of abundance. A land of freedom.
Unfortunately, old habits die hard. They also came back with stories of self-doubt, self-loathing, and the defeatism typical of someone who had known only bondage. All of this demoralized the children of Israel. Even the thought of conquering was too much for this group, so depleted was their motivation. Their habit was to be conquered not to be the conqueror.
But two of the spies had been raised by parents who did not buy into the slave mentality. Those men were told stories of a God who was mighty, faithful, and just. The mindset of slavery had not poisoned these two.
Unfortunately, the Israelites knowledge of their rightful place in Jehovah was eroded by the bondage they had endured. Rather than contemplate who they were, they spent the night after the spies’ report bemoaning what they had become.
They longed for the familiar restrictions of slavery. The wanted to be reminded of their boundaries, their limitations, and their unworthiness. Those feelings were oddly comforting because then they could count on their masters to make the rules. There would be none of this bravado, none of this pressure to elevate their spirits and lives.
The people were psychologically incapable of conquering the land they now knew was theirs. They had left Egypt, but Egypt had certainly not left them. This was a nation who mere months prior had watched the Red Sea part and then collapse on their former masters. But it wasn’t enough to change their mind and, therefore, their destiny. Their plan was to continue to raise their children the way they were raised: with learned helplessness.
Rather than finding their courage in what they knew about themselves and their God, the children of Israel had to have their courage revived by a vast wilderness. A forty-year trek served to purge the last remnants of those who had mentally chosen to remain slaves.
It is such a sad thought that many remained slaves long after the shackles are removed. But how often do modern children of God do the same thing? We have experienced the freedom from the harsh taskmaster of sin only to forget that with our freedom comes victory.
Do we neglect to remind the young of who they are in Him? Of their heritage? Of their privilege? They are not who the slave master says they are. They are not destined to remain in the chains of sin. It is up to us, mature saints of God, to banish the slave mentality. Our responsibility is to speak openly of our victorious heritage and future.
The next generation will learn (or ignore) their godly privilege by watching and listening to the previous generation’s response to the sins that would be slave master. What mindset will you pass on?
Dr. Jeanie Bland serves as director of the Urshan Student Success Center at Urshan College (where she is a faculty member) and Urshan Graduate School of Theology.