Slavery and Human Exploitation

When you hear the word “slavery,” you may think of people living long ago, in ancient Rome or before the American Civil War. You may imagine that slavery happened only in the distant past. The reality is that slavery exists today. People are still treated like a commodity—a product to buy and sell. Slavery is contrary to what God had intended for humanity.

Organizations dedicated to ending human trafficking estimate that, worldwide, over 25 million people are caught up in its web. Some people are held against their will and forced to work for wages that get them only further in debt. In some places, wages are so low that workers must borrow from their employer to provide for basic sustenance. Even as they work long hours, they go deeper into debt. Their employers essentially own them. This is labor trafficking.

In other places, poor families must choose whether to sell one child to gain the money needed to support the others or watch all their children starve. Young boys may be signed into bonded labor, and not released until they are well into adulthood. In other cases, young men and women are lured with promises of relationship, income, and respect, only to find themselves forced into the sex trade.

Economic exploitation is a major contributor to poverty, crime, war, and social unrest. Addressing people who became wealthy by exploiting others, the apostle James wrote, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” (James 5:4, NIV). The Bible calls us to care for all people. Proverbs 14:31 declares, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (NIV).

There are many ways you can help work against human trafficking and labor exploitation. Consider: