The Galley Slave Analogy Explored

In the Galley Slave analogy I shared with you recently I spoke of a galley slave rowing for the black fleet of pirate ships. Because the observations I am making in that scenario are important ones I am going to revisit the analogy here and unpack some points that I want you to note.

Reviewing the Analogy

In the scenario everyone spends their life as a galley slave (slave oarsman) in sea vessels, either for the Black Pirate fleet or the White ships (they are the good guys). The black are constantly in fear of being pursued and sunk by the white ships. While each person has free choice of fleet to row for their choice is usually made inadvertently, by their childhood actions.

Acts of selfishness, independence or evil automatically assign a person to the Black ships. Only those who have remained free of selfishness and evil will be allowed to work on the White ships.

I suggested that you were a slave on a Black ship and had heard that it is possible to cry out to the White ship for rescue. When your ship is under attack you cry out for rescue, despite the anger of those in the Black ship around you. As the Black ship breaks up you are rescued to the White ship for a whole new life.

Instead of being chained in place you are given a place to row, but as an act of devotion. You are a ‘love slave’ to the White fleet, and you have the opportunity to abandon ship if you should so choose.

You do choose to abandon the White ship, in hope of freedom from all servitude altogether. You escape to shore and run with all your might. But you discover that your abandonment has made you a slave again, this time to the Black Pirate ships again.


While we all love the notion of absolute freedom, it does not exist. We live in a moral universe in which we either serve our maker or we rebel against Him and become a slave to degradation.

Even if we are otherwise ‘nice’ people, when we are on the side of evil we must suffer the consequences that come to evil. We are judged as a pirate because we have chosen, no matter how ignorantly, to be on the pirate ship.

“The wages of sin is death.” Sin brings people into slavery to its kingdom. The kingdom of sin is under the death sentence and so you, when on the side of sin, will suffer judgement, destruction and hell. You are an enemy to God and you serve God’s enemies. You are under the judgement that belongs to all of God’s enemies. Your only hope is to abandon the enemy’s service and come under God’s lordship.

New Life in Christ

We are each offered forgiveness and deliverance through faith in Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to pay your account, so there is a legal provision for your debts to be cancelled. However, you must “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved.

Those in the service of sin will resent you for abandoning their ship and crying out to God for mercy. They will mock and rebuke you for changing sides. You may well lose all of your friends and the respect of your associates. The change in your place is radical.

Complete Freedom to Serve

Your newfound freedom in Christ is awesome. You are freed from slavery to sin. You are now empowered to become free from every evil habit of thought, word and deed. Your will is now able to yield to God. You can stop cursing, lusting, arguing, rising up in pride and much more. This is a profound freedom that is exhilarating in its dimensions.

In that place of freedom the only reasonable response is for you to dedicate yourself to God, as His love slave, serving His kingdom with all your life. In your service, you are no longer chained to sin and shame. You are able to choose each time to yield to God’s call on your life. There is no coercion but joyful cooperation with God.

Back into Slavery

When you are tempted to reject God’s grace and to pursue self-will again you have the freedom to do so. God will not trap you in His kingdom, as the devil traps you in the kingdom of darkness. God wants you to yield to Him as an act of your love for Him, with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

If you choose to give in to selfish ambition, self-serving ideas and selfish independence God will let you run after those things. However, that very act of pushing off to gain new freedoms for yourself only brings you right back to a place of slavery to sin again.

When you serve sin, sin becomes your slave driver. Once you are back under the slavery to sin you are once again in line for all that sin’s kingdom is under, which is judgement, death and hell.

Choose Your Slavery

Your only choices are between slavery and slavery. You can be in bondage to the cruel slavery to sin, habits, shame, degradation, addiction and evil. Or you can be a love-slave to God, free within yourself, but willingly yielding yourself in service to God.

The Galley Slave Analogy

Follow me in this analogy and see if it helps you catch fresh insight into some Bible truth. I find that different ways of explaining things suit different people, so the use of analogy often helps open up a truth to people in a fresh way.

The Galley Slave

Imagine that you are a slave on board an ancient black ship, and you are among a group of slaves who must row the boat. That is what a galley slave is, and you are one of them, for the purposes of this analogy.

Imagine, further, that there is a sea battle, and your ship is being attacked. While the enemy attacking your ship has no particular dislike for you, you are nonetheless under attack because the ship you are in is under attack.

You row as hard as you can and you hope with all you have that your ship survives the battle. If your ship is sunk you will sink with it, since you are chained to your seat. Remember, you are a slave on this ship.

The Back Story

For the purposes of this analogy we need to consider how you came to be a galley slave on that particular ship. This is what the movie-makers call the back story, filling the viewer in on what led up to the present predicament.

It turns out that there are only two options for people in your world. Both options involve being a galley slave. The choice is which ship to row for. There are the Black ships and the White ships, which are at war with each other.

As a child you have opportunity to consider which ship you will row for. But most people do not make the decision consciously. They are tricked into their choice by actions which they think are innocent.

A child may be playing with friends or exploring the market or just walking down the street, but end up being tricked into slavery. They are given a choice to make, which seems quite innocent, such as stealing a small piece of fruit, or telling a lie. When they make that choice the choice of ship has been made for them, by their actions.

At some point you were dragged off to the Black ship and chained in place. You did not remember choosing to row for the Black ships, but you discover that your selfish choices at a younger age were unwittingly your choice to row for the Black ship.

The Ugly Facts

Once you became a galley slave for the Black ships you learned some ugly facts. The Black ships are deemed to be pirate ships and are pursued and frequently sunk at sea by the White ships. You didn’t want to be a pirate or to suffer the punishment of a pirate, but now you are a galley slave on a pirate ship.

You cannot jump ship and you cannot change your choice. You are now forever in fear and forever tormented by the possibility of being pursued and sunk at sea.

These ugly facts make you desperately sorry for your careless actions as a child. You rebuke yourself for not realising what was going on and for allowing yourself to fall into the trap of your own selfishness.

The Escape

One of the galley slaves rowing near you tells you that he heard of a galley slave on a Black ship who cried out for mercy during a battle. He was rescued from the Black ship and set free from all his past wrong choices.

Inspired by this story you wait for the time when your ship is under attack and you too begin to cry out loud for mercy. Those around you treat you with scorn and taunt and mock you, but you are determined to be saved and so you keep calling out despite their rebukes and physical blows.

Suddenly your ship is broken open by the bow of a White ship and someone jumps down and pulls you free as your Black ship sinks.


As you stand, saved, on the deck of a White ship you swear your allegiance to the white fleet and breathe the fresh air of freedom. You are now no longer linked to the pirate fleet and you will now not live under the constant fear of death.

You are then escorted to the galley of the White ship where you are given a place to sit and row. This time you are not chained to your seat, so you can stand and move around. You could even abandon ship if you wished to. You now have the privilege of service to the White fleet, as a voluntary slave, in gratitude for your freedom.

Jumping Ship

Some time later you feel a compelling urge to be free of the oars completely. You feel a powerful urge to be free of all slavery and free of all responsibility. You feel a strong urge to jump ship and achieve a new level of freedom that does not include the responsibility to serve on the White fleet.

When the ship is in dock one day you quietly slip over the side and sneak away on your own. When you are clear you run as fast and far as you can to get away from the coast and all ships.

You finally collapse and sleep, dreaming of your new-found freedom from all slavery and responsibility.

Back to the Black

When you wake you find that you have been caught, not by the White fleet which you abandoned, but by the Black ship again. Your rejection of the White ship responsibilities turns out to be a choice which makes you a Black ship slave again.

You struggle and protest. You did what you did to be completely free of slavery, not to be dragged back into it. But once again you have been ignorant of reality. Everyone is a slave. The choice is not between slavery and freedom, but to which fleet you will be enslaved.

The White fleet saved you from the pirate fleet and its fearful fugitive existence. But in the White fleet you were still a slave, a love slave dedicated to serve as an act of your free will. When you rejected that responsibility you gave in to selfishness again and that action brought you under slavery to the Black fleet all over again.


I trust that I don’t have to unpack this analogy for you. I hope its significance is clear. However I will take the time in a future post to unpack the Galley Slave Analogy for you, and to remind you of the points I have sought to make in this little story.

Staying Under Command

Westerners have little grip on authority. Most westerners don’t have authority, because they are not under authority. Most westerners have violated their right to rule by refusing to be ruled. Of course they are ruled, or indeed dominated, but their spirit is one of insubordination and independence. So they have lost the right to rule.

This is profoundly significant for the menfolk of the west. They are the ones who are supposed to lead, as the head of their home. Yet they cannot take that lead, since they know nothing of true headship and authority. Their challenge is to stay under command.

I want to help you learn how to do that, so here’s an analogy I recently used to illustrate this principle.

The Chain of Command

Before we dig into my illustration let me remind you how God has set up the command structure. God has created an hierarchical authority structure for us to operate within. God is the head of that structure. The next in command is Christ. So God, as Almighty God and as the Son of God, Jesus Christ, occupies the two top positions in the hierarchy. Husbands are given a place of authority directly under Christ. Wives are given a place directly under their husband.

Husbands, then, have a pretty awesome place of authority. They are directly answerable to Jesus Christ. Imagine being directly answerable to the Prime Minister or President of your country. That’s the place of authority husbands have in God’s scheme of things. That’s a pretty elevated place of responsibility and authority.

Abusing the Boss

Imagine being directly answerable to the leader of your nation, and then taking orders from someone else. When you begin taking orders from someone other than your boss you are abusing the boss. You mock the authority of the boss because you do not revere and respect it. You stop being under that authority and so negate the delegated authority given to you.

Every time you let someone change the orders your boss gave you the effect is that of mocking your boss and demeaning the boss’s authority. What does it say about your boss, when you let some person off the street tell you what to do? You are lowering the authority of the boss to being no more significant than that of a stranger or some person with no authority.

Stay Under Command

The most important thing for a person to do is to stay under command. This is especially so if you have been given the privilege of direct access to someone of high authority. You certainly would not want to violate that authority and lose your place under it. You want to remain in direct line of command from the highest officer possible.

To do that you must honour your boss. You must be diligent to faithfully fulfil the wishes and instructions of the boss, so he is pleased with you and retains you in the position of authority he has assigned you.

This is equally as important for husbands as the head of their home. If a man disregards the lordship of God and Christ in his life he loses the effective authority that has been delegated to him. He ends up with a wife and children who have no regard for his leadership and headship, since he has no regard for Christ’s headship over him.

The Challenge

Many men are already starting from a lost position. They have to regain their authority in a context where their wife rules them and their children ignore them. This is a pretty hefty challenge, but it is one that can be met. God is the one who assigned men their authority and so when men move into it they do have God’s backing.

The question I get asked from time to time is about actually activating that authority, especially in a context where it has never been exercised before. That is where this Soldier analogy came from. I hope you find it helpful.

Soldier to Soldier

Imagine two platoons of soldiers from different armies working together in a battle zone against a common enemy. Each group is kitted out with their issue of uniform and equipment. The soldiers from the two armies mix together, but are under the direct command of their platoon leader.

A soldier from one army advises a soldier from the other nation that the way he carries his ammunition belt is not right. One army wears the belt around the waste and the other slings it over the shoulder. The solder being told what to do by the other soldier has to decide what to do.

He can take the advice of the other soldier. If he does so, he is stepping outside the instructions given him by his own army command. The kit which he is issued and trained to use is to be utilised as instructed. If he rejects his own command he makes himself subservient to a mere soldier from a different nation. He is acting outside his chain of command.

However, the suggestion may be a good one. So, could he not follow the instruction if it strikes him as a good idea? The answer is, No! He must operate within the chain of command and stay under the authority of his commanding officer.

What to Do?

What he can do is go to his commanding officer and ask for permission to wear his kit in a different manner to what is prescribed. The commanding officer may happily give him leave to do so. It may not be a significant matter. The officer may allow the soldier to do what he thinks best. Or there may be good reason why the prescribed wearing of the kit has to be maintained.

By respecting the command of his own platoon leaders the soldier is staying in a place of authority. That authority protects him and also empowers him with delegated authority.

The Point

The point of this illustration is to convey the concept of authority to people who have little practical experience in living under God’s authority. The next issue is how to practically apply authority and headship into a home where it has been absent. I’ll tackle that question in a future post about Regaining Domestic Authority.

The Marriage University

I spoke recently with a husband who was struggling to come to terms with his own responsibility in his home. To help him grasp one of the concepts I came up with a new analogy which I had not used before. I share it here to give you additional focus on the journey couples make in graduating into glory.

Different Roles in the Marriage

Husbands and wives have unique roles in the marriage. There are specific things husbands must do, that their wives are not asked to do. There are specific things wives are asked to do, that their husbands are not asked to do. Both husband and wife must make personal progress in their own assignment, irrespective of how the spouse is getting on with their challenges.

Different Places of Responsibility

According to the Bible, God has established human society by way of a hierarchy of responsibility. That hierarchy starts with God. Almighty God has the ultimate authority and the greatest responsibility, overseeing all else. Directly under God’s authority, and next in the hierarchy of responsibility is Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Then, directly under Jesus Christ is the husband. In the marriage and family, the husband carries the next level of authority and responsibility. The wife, is then under the husband’s authority, just as the husband is under Christ’s authority and Christ is under God.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” 1Corinthians 11:3

Different Lessons to Learn

Many specific responsibilities spring from this hierarchical structure. The Husband must shoulder responsibility for the wife, children and home. He is directly answerable to God for his management and handling of the relationships, standards, training and spiritual blessing of the home. This includes morality, godliness, the fear of God, holiness, discipline, direction, spiritual and natural protection, and more.

The Wife must bring herself under the headship of the husband. This will be hard for her if she looks only at her husband. She must recognise and place her trust in God and Christ, as the husband’s heads. If she fails to do that she will end up taking matters into her own hands, making demands of her husband, manipulating, contending and otherwise failing to submit to his headship.

The husband must be able to nurture his wife and children, while being sure that he is answerable to Jesus and God, not others who will seek to direct his life. He must ensure that he does not abdicate to his wife, and allow her to replace Christ as the head of the home. If he allows her to do that he brings spiritual problems into the whole family.

Marriage University

Both husband and wife are attending the same university of life. They attend classes together, but both must learn different lessons from the life situations which they confront. It is as if they are both sitting side by side in the lecture hall, listening to the lessons. Yet the husband is enrolled in a different course to his wife. He will be set different assignments and tested on different questions to his wife, even from the same professor.

The husband is studying headship of his wife and submission to Christ. The wife is studying submission to her husband and faith in Christ and God.

The Curriculum

The Marriage University is an open book, mastery learning, life-experience oriented environment. The curriculum covers the same scope for all who attend, but the individual differences of each student are taken into account by the teachers. Some will study longer and be challenged with more difficult lab tests. Some will find that the open learning environment continues with extension courses for the rest of their lives.

Honours Courses

Each couple should make it their determination to graduate with Honours. High Distinctions are the best objective for each elective and every test. When a person graduates with that standard they are guaranteed many graces and much blessing from their diligent and faithful application.

The fruit of the course begins to be enjoyed long before graduation. Each lesson learned opens the couple to new joys and new privileges in their relationship. In time they will be expected to tutor other students and may well become emeritus professors themselves, as they make the grade and master the curriculum.

Here’s to Your Studies

I wish you every success in your studies. Please don’t drop out of the course. There’s nowhere to go if you can’t stay in the lessons.

And may the Living Lord God bless your relationship as you study and master the material together.

Helped but Not Helpless

Aussie males have a problem getting the help they need. This is probably true in other cultures as well. It’s the problem of ego and ignorance making people think that to need help makes one ‘helpless’. That thought is not true, and it’s a mental stronghold that needs to be pulled down. So, I’m starting up my bulldozer and pushing straight toward that stupid idea.

Here’s an analogy to help you see what I’m on about. Imagine you like driving your off-road vehicle through the bush (that’s the Aussie word for the scrub, off-road, off-the-beaten-track, wilderness, or whatever you call it). Let’s assume that you drive happily and successfully for several miles until you come to a place where your forward passage is blocked by a fallen tree. At this point you need some help.

Fortunately for you another person comes along and sees your predicament. They help you cut up the fallen tree and pull it out of the way. You thank them and drive on happily for another few miles.

As you enjoy your ‘bush-bashing’ journey you come to a swollen creek and are unsure whether it is safe to cross. You have been warned that there are some deep holes in the creek, but you cannot see where the warning markers are, since the creek is now flooded. After a few minutes of waiting, another vehicle comes along on the other side of the creek. They too are nervous about the depth of the water, but eventually they drive into the creek and manage to get across without incident. You note the place where they crossed and make your crossing there too. Without them realising it, they helped you find a good place to cross.

Yet further down the track you discover that your fuel gauge is broken and you have very little fuel left. You now have too little fuel to get back to the road. Thankfully another vehicle approaches and the driver sells you his spare drum of fuel which enables you to get back home.

Now, in that adventure you required help three separate times. So, does that make you ‘helpless’?

Of course not! Getting help doesn’t make you helpless. You were perfectly capable of making good progress most of the time. You are a competent driver and a good navigator. You struck some hitches along the way and you managed to solve them, with the assistance of others.

And that’s how most of us live our lives. We make good progress most of the time and we get helped out when we get stuck. We call a mechanic when our car needs fixing and we call a plumber when our pipes need fixing. We go to a dentist when our teeth need fixing and we go to an accountant when the books need ‘fixing’ (that’s a joke!). It’s completely normal to need assistance at many points along the way.

Even the awesome professionals need help all the time. Professional tennis stars rely heavily on their coaches, who can’t even play as well as the pro’s do! Most businesses rely on consultants, while medical and legal experts rely on second opinions. The reason we have expensive reference resources in many professions is because people need help from resources outside themselves.

Do you get the picture?

So, why is it that many people cringe at the idea of telling someone they have a problem? Why is it that people think it shameful to admit that they need something explained or that they even need someone to point the way out of their situation?

The blockage is pride. Male ego is another term for it in men. Counsellors recognise that women are far more likely to seek help and be open about their problems than men are. But there’s no real reason to be coy about getting the help we need. Help is not only needed by everyone, the most successful people build a team of helpers around them, to cover for all the possible contingencies.

Take a look at a top formula one racing team and look at the amount of ‘help’ that goes into enabling the top drivers to get into the points. Engineering, design, pit crew, race strategists, sports psychologists, tyre technologists, analysts and so on, are all built into a winning team. That’s an abundance of ‘help’, but that doesn’t make us jeer at the Hamiltons, Schumachers, Senna’s or Alonzo’s.

Guys, it’s time to get real and to pull down the idea that getting help makes you helpless. Getting help makes you successful and proves how smart you are. Pretending you are a self-made man and can do everything without help is lunacy. It relegates you to the underperformer paddock, where all the also-rans are sent. Real professionals have no qualms about saying, “I want to be the best and I’ll get whatever help I can get to make sure I get to the top!”

It’s time to stop being helpless and to start getting help. Once you cross this swollen creek, or get that obstacle out of your path you will be able to make good progress again and get to the places you always dreamed of reaching.