The word slavery is used differently when it comes to biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, and in common English (not a Bible translation).
The stark, harsh image that comes to mind when we think of slavery is that of the dark, sweaty bodies of slaves bent over rowing ships as the boss man beat them with whips. What about the Bible?
In Colossians 3:22, Paul writes, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” It is important to understand the historical and cultural context in which this verse was written. At the time that Paul wrote this letter, slavery was a widespread and accepted institution in the Roman Empire. Slaves were considered property and had few rights. In this verse, Paul addresses a specific group of believers who were slaves and encourages them to be obedient to their earthly masters. So, how are we to understand this verse and others like it? Is God condoning slavery?