Uncle Tom: Symbol of Servility or a Man of Dignity?

 The Bible indicates that we have great worth and dignity because we are created in the image of God and we are people for whom Christ died.

 The concept of Jesus conferring  a special dignity upon human beings is contained in the book entitled, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written by the famous Harriet Beecher Stowe.  This work provoked much empathy for the plight of slaves living just before the Civil War.  Many have suggested that the book, because of its widespread influence, had some causal significance to the outbreak of that War.  Abraham Lincoln believed this.

 In contemporary culture, especially among many in the black community, Uncle Tom is a symbol of slavishness.  He just goes along to get along with his brutal master without resistance.  An “Uncle Tom” today is an expression of contempt leveled at those blacks whose behavior towards whites is fawning and abjectly servile.

 But the picture of Tom is not that simple.  In the book Tom is being thrashed and kicked by his cruel master, because he refuses to do an immoral act.

 “Here, ye rascal,” the master says to Tom, “ain’t I yer master?  Did ye never read in yer Bible, `Servants, obey yer masters?’  Didn’t I pay twelve hundred dollars for all that is in yer old black shell?  Ain’t ye mine, body and soul mine?” giving him a kick as he spoke these words.

 In the depths of his bodily suffering, bowed down by brutal oppression, that word, “soul” shot a gleam of triumph through Tom’s mind.  He suddenly straightened himself up and looking to heaven, while the blood and tears that flowed down his face mingled, exclaimed:  “No, Massa!  No.  My soul ain’t yours.  Ye haven’t bought it.  Ye can’t buy it.  It’s been bought and paid for by One that’s able to keep it.  No matter; no matter!  Ye can’t buy my soul.”

 Tom understood his Bible and the dignity conferred upon him by his relationship with Christ.  He stood up to his master by reminding him that one place to which his authority did not extend was his soul! 

 “You were bought with a price.  Do not become the slaves of men” (I Cor 7:23). 

Published in: on August 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment