ODJ: giving back

September 28, 2015 

READ: Philemon 1:1-20 

Put into action the generosity that comes from your faith (v.6).

Not long ago, two newlyweds kissed their honeymoon goodbye. They also purposely did not plan a wedding reception to celebrate their union. Instead, they used the money they would have spent on themselves to selflessly help people in each of the 50 states in America. In Arkansas, they gave gifts to sick children. In Utah, they aided victims of domestic abuse. In New Jersey, they donated clothing to a homeless shelter—and so on.

Selflessness often means letting go of comforts so that we can make life better for someone else. As a prisoner, Paul decided it would be better to set free his helper and fellow inmate, Onesimus, than to enjoy the pleasure of their Christian fellowship (Philemon 1:13). The apostle was a self-described “old man” then, and his deep appreciation for Onesimus made it hard for him to let the younger man leave. But Paul denied his own desires and did what was best for his slave friend and for his owner, Philemon.

It’s evident that Philemon was also dear to Paul—Paul referred to him as “a beloved co-worker” (v.1). Philemon would benefit from having his slave back, but Onesimus would not be back as a servant. Onesimus had wronged his owner, run away and ended up in jail. Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus as a “beloved brother” and to welcome him as he would have welcomed Paul himself (vv.17-18).

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day-plan: John 20:1-18

Look up 2 Corinthians 9:7-9 to learn more about selfless giving. 
How many instances of grace can you find in Paul’s letter to Philemon? How does Onesimus’ story point us to Jesus?