Jump Start # 2497
Philemon 18 “But if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”
Philemon is among five books of the Bible that have only one chapter. It’s size doesn’t indicate it’s place, power or significance. Philemon was a wealthy man who lived in Colossae. The church met in his home. He owned slaves. And, one slave took off. He ran. He was a fugitive. We are not told why he ran. Interestingly, the book of Colossians contains instructions for both slaves and masters about how they were to treat each other.
The run-a-way found Paul. He stayed and was helpful to Paul. In our times today, we might say, “Finders-keepers”, but that wasn’t the right thing to do. Paul was sending the slave back. This letter, the book of Philemon, accompanied his return. The slave was a Christian. The master was a Christian. Paul was a Christian. All of that changed the playing field. Forgiveness, grace, patience and love now dominate the air. What’s the right thing to do?
This is where our verse enters. The slave was being sent back. Had he made a mess when he left? Did he steal when he left? The slave ought to pay, but he can’t. He’s a slave. I guess Paul could tell Philemon just to write it off and let it go. But, he didn’t even do that. “Charge that to my account,” are the words of the apostle. Not only did Paul standup for the slave, he was now backing him financially. I will pay for what he has done, is what Paul is saying. He can’t, but I will. Don’t let money keep you from doing what is good and right.
You just have to love the spirit and attitude of Paul. Sure wish there were more like him around today. Had Paul not backed the run-a-way, there would always be the potential for grudges, regret and hatred. Paul removed all of that. He believed in the slave. Paul is acting like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.
Now, to us. Do we sit back and watch someone crawl and suffer and stumble along because of sins they have made and they are trying to get back on their feet, but they just can’t. We say that we forgive them, but our actions just don’t show it. We wait. We watch.
It could be the young college student who flunked out and is now back home. It could be the young mother who is recently divorced. It could be the alcoholic who is trying to beat his addiction. It could be the couple who are up to their eyeballs in debt. Struggling saints. Their hearts are often right. They have learned deep lessons. They are working on doing the right things. But, in the immediate, they struggle.
They sure could use a Paul in their lives. They sure could benefit from someone being in their corner and believing in them. How did Paul know that the slave would not run again? How did he know that the slave might not even steal from him? It wasn’t wishing for the best. Paul saw changes. Paul saw a heart that was now focused upon the Lord. As Paul sent the slave back to Philemon, there was no doubt in his mind that he would make the journey. The slave could have torn up the letter that he carried and ran the other way. He didn’t. He didn’t because he was not the same person that had run. His heart had changed. Paul understood that.
And, that too often is the reason why some are left to struggle on their own. Folks just do not believe that they have changed. People do not believe that they can ever do right again. So, rather than jumping in and helping out, they stay back and merely watch.
Some have said things to make others believe that they changed, when they really didn’t. Some know just the right things people want to hear and they will say those things. Some do that, just to milk more money and help from others. It doesn’t take too much of that for people to get a sour taste about helping anyone, even those who truly have changed, like this slave.
What is to be done?
First, not everyone is the same. Not all addicts are always addicts. Some change. Treat each person as a unique individual. Don’t lump everyone into the same group. Don’t allow bad experiences in the past to color your eyes to what is before you.
Second, the person ought to be able to show you that they have changed. John preached the idea of bringing fruits of repentance. Is the person worshipping? Are they trying? Do they seem interested in the Lord? What’s going on during the week? Sooner or later, a person who is playing a game, will be caught. His words. His attitudes. His choices. They show. They tell us.
Third, the good you do can influence a person for a lifetime. Some just need to know that others believe in them. Some need a cheerleader in their corner. Encouragement is important. In Colossians, Paul referred to the slave as our faithful and beloved brother. Why did he use those words? Because the slave had shown himself to be that way. He was trustworthy now. He was dependable now. He was one you could count upon now. Some of the worst people can become some of the best people. I’ve known preachers who when young in life committed crimes and even spent time in jail. I’ve known men who served as elders who when young fell away from the Lord. They changed. They were given a second chance. People believed in them. And, years later, they are busy in the kingdom, helping others.
Put it on my account…words of trust, confidence and assurance. Could you do it for someone else?