Tuesday, February 18, 2014

This week's lesson: with the rich and famous

It's not easy being rich.

Consider Philemon -- a wealthy believer who's lost a valuable piece of property. And if that wasn't bad enough, now he receives this letter from Paul:
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Paul says I'm his 'dear and fellow worker,'" Philemon says to himself. "I wonder if he wants something?" 
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
"He's heard about my love and faith -- and he prays that my partnership with him will deepen my understanding . . . yes, he definitely wants something.".
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do . . . 
"I'd like to see him try!"
. . . yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus . . . 
"Gulp! This makes it really difficult to turn down his request!"
. . . that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
"Onesimus! He's talking about my runaway slave . . . whom he just called his son?!?"
I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.
"Hmmm . . . Paul said he would have liked to keep Onesimus, but did not -- so where's he going with this? Why did Paul send him back?"
But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
"So . . . technically, this slave is now my brother in Christ. And in theory, I suppose I should be happy this slave is now my brother in Christ. But he's still a slave, and he ran away, and Paul knows good and well what happens to runaway slaves -- right? I mean, it's not like he's actually told me to forgive Onesimus -- right?" 
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
"Now when he says, 'even more than I ask,' is he saying . . . no, he couldn't. He wouldn't. Okay, he probably does expect me to free Onesimus -- even if he doesn't come right out and say it. Then again, how would he ever know?"
And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
"Okay, that's how he would know. And even though Paul's being really, really nice about this, it's clear this is going to cost me something."
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark,Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

No, it's not easy being rich.

There are so many people who need your help, after all.

And so many ways you can help them.

1 comment:

Pastor Greg said...

I've used the New International Version . . . but if I'd quoted Philemon in the original Greek, then you would have noticed Paul's weakness for puns.

You see, "Onesimus" is a name that means "useful" -- so Paul literally says in verses 10f that "Useful was useless, but now he's useful again."

Okay, it was funnier in the original Greek.