Original Research - Special Collection: Africa Platform for NT Scholars

Domestic workers in Nigerian Christian families: A socio-rhetorical reading of Ephesians 6:5–9

Olubiyi A. Adewale
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 3 | a7635 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i3.7635 | © 2022 Olubiyi A. Adewale | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 April 2022 | Published: 15 July 2022

About the author(s)

Olubiyi A. Adewale, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts, National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria; Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The erosion of traditional work roles which had been male biased has led to the increase of women in the workplace. Although a welcomed development, it has an attendant problem – a vacuum in the homestead. Consequently, families are filling this vacuum by employing various hands (houseboys and girls, maids and nannies) to handle the house chores in the absence of parents. Being part of the society and mostly affected by female personnel (as Islamic conservativeness is reducing female personnel), many Christian parents are now faced with the issue of relating properly with their ‘servants’ and vice versa. In fact, there are many cases of maltreatment of these helps and pampering their own children while the helps are overstretched, on the one hand, and cases of outrageous and negative behaviours on the part of the ‘servants’. This article is aimed at giving a biblical guideline on domestic workers and masters relationship via a socio-rhetorical reading of Ephesians 6:5–9. It examines the Graeco-Roman household codes between servants and masters and provides a comparative analysis of these ethical codes with the Nigerian situation to emphasise the contemporary relevance of the passage.

Contributions: The article holds that rather than being treated as domestic workers, these servants should be treated as part of the family. They should be sent to school, properly clothed, and fed and treated equally with the children of the home. They are human beings created and loved by God before whom we are all equals.


New Testament; Ephesians; Haustafel; slaves; domestic servants


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