Philemon 1:1-25; Jeremiah 19-20; Psalm 128
Onesimus visited Paul in jail and soon became a follower of Christ. There was only one problem: Onesimus was a slave – a runaway slave. Without getting into the evils of slavery, Paul knew that if he harbored Onesimus as he headed to face Roman justice, it would be more difficult for Paul and for Onesimus. So Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with a request: “treat him no longer as a slave, but as a brother. Release him from his bonds and put it on my account. Oh and by the way, you owe me your life.” (Ok, those aren’t the exact words from Scripture, but you get the idea.) Notice though, that this was a request – it was not a demand. Paul explained why it was a request. “But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.” (Philemon 14) Charity is always voluntary. We in the church should be leaders in charity, even suffering hardship if necessary to help others in real need. But true help does not create dependency. As we help others we should find that people are growing out of the need to be helped and soon become the people who help others as well. When we create dependency with out help, soon the “charity” becomes compulsory and we have to continue supporting the dependent person no matter what because we created the situation; at least in the eyes of others. So, just as Philemon received Paul’s appeal to help, we also hear these same words. We must be willing to sacrifice voluntarily to help people in need and guide them into a situation where they become not just takers of charity, but givers of charity as well. That is not only our responsibility under God, it is a joy and a privilege to help others.
Dear Lord, help me to see the true needs of others. Give me a heart that is willing to give of myself sacrificially to help meet those needs. Let all that I do be true help that lifts people out of their needy state, brings them into a positive relationship with You, and helps them respond to the needs of others themselves.