Faith in Christ has financial implications in all aspects of our lives.
Thousands of years ago in what we now call the country of Turkey, near the city of Colossae, lived a wealthy Christian land owner named Philemon. The Apostle Paul began a letter to him, and to the church that met in his house, thanking him for the hospitality he had shown to Christian missionaries. But Paul expected more from Philemon.
It seems that certain slave named Onesimus had escaped from Philemon’s household. Perhaps Paul had stayed with Philemon while visiting Colossae and this slave had secretly followed Paul to subsequent places of ministry served Paul while he was in prison. Jewish law allowed Onesimus to continue to minister with Paul:
Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them.
— Deuteronomy 23:15-16 (NRSV)
Roman law was equally clear. Escaped slaves where to returned to their owners or executed.
Having separately written to probably Philemon’s church at Colossae that slaves were to obey their master and that masters were to treat their slaves fairly, Paul opted to put Philemon’s faith to a practical test, urging him to do the right thing with Onesimus.
How has your faith challenged you to stress your household to do the right thing when secular culture offers an easier, less expensive option?
I will have more to say about Paul’s brief letter to Philemon, including what happened to Onesimus, on Sunday, September 4th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor