Philemon 1:14

Thursday, 19 July 2018

But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. Philemon 1:14

Paul’s words of the previous verse said that he “wished to keep” Onesimus with him. He then said that this was so that he could minister to Paul on Philemon’s behalf. He was writing as if Philemon’s help was to be conducted through Onesimus. He now says, “But without your consent.”

Obviously, Philemon would not be helping Paul if he didn’t consent to help him. Therefore, he couldn’t claim Philemon’s help without consent. And so without this consent, he says, “I wanted to do nothing.” In the previous verse, the tense of the verb “I wished” was imperfect. That now changes to “I wanted” in the aorist tense. In essence, he was first saying, “I was wishing.” Now he is saying, “I am finally determined.” One could think of him saying, “I had really hoped to keep him with me, but I firmly decide that he must be sent back.” There is a subtle plea for mercy, and then there is the acknowledgment that he must do what is right in order to allow the plea to be granted.

Imagine someone (Mark) having $50.00 that belonged to someone else (Gordon). Mark may need $20.00 for lunch. He could say, “Gordon wouldn’t mind me spending $20.00 for lunch.” Further, Gordon owes Mark a giant debt of another kind. What an incentive to help himself to the small amount of $20.00!

As noted in the previous verse, it may be true that Gordon wouldn’t mind Mark taking the money, but there may be more involved than just whether Gordon minded or not. He may need all $50.00 to pay his car registration. To go spending that money, without specific approval, would be wrong. Further, even if Gordon didn’t mind, Mark’s spending the money without Gordon’s approving it in advance would then deprive Gordon of his right to bless his not-so-clearly thinking friend.

This is akin to what Paul is saying now. “I know that you would be willing to minister to me, and that you would be willing to do so through Onesimus, but I also know that without your consent, it would be inappropriate for me to keep him.” Paul next relays to Philemon exactly what should be relayed from Mark to Gordon, by saying, “that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.”

Paul is doing what is right in all ways with this matter, and yet he is doing it in such a way that it would be the epitome of ingratitude for Philemon to take any other course of action than to respond favorably to Paul’s request. It is a masterful way of having the matter settled in his favor, or showing the true nature of Philemon in the process. Paul is allowing Philemon to be gracious to Paul while still directing him to do the right thing. This is actually similar to how he handled the matter of collection from the church in Corinth for the saints in Jerusalem in 2 Corinthians 9:1-5.

Life application: Using tact is always a good way of leading people to make the right decisions while allowing them the dignity of not looking bad in the process. It is a skill which must be developed, and it should be carefully applied in sensitive matters. Paul was a master at it, and his example will serve us well in related matters, if we will simply take advantage of it.

Lord God, grant us the wisdom to be tactful in how we conduct our affairs with others. Feelings can easily be hurt over what we might think of as minor issues. And so be with us as we interact with others, knowing that we also desire the same respect and care from them over matters which concern us. And because Your word shows us examples of how to conduct ourselves in such ways, grant us the wisdom to read that precious gift daily. To Your glory. Amen.

6 thoughts on “Philemon 1:14

  • Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 10:06 am

    OMG my shields are down my cloaking device is off line I have been exposed !!! LOL
    Well I am thankful that I come to mind in a positive way for you Charlie lol

    Anything I can do to help get the lords word out there is a good thing!

    Yes we should always be mindful of others and not assume or take advantage of situations that precent themselves to us! Sadly while we are in this world it a part of our sinful nature. We need to pray everyday for guidance from the lord to help us over come our sin nature.

    Grace Mercy and Peace on you and yours

    We are another day closer to home Amen

    God bless my friend(s)

  • Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    BLESS GOD PRAISE JESUS! I used this technique a few times in law enforcement to defuse fights before they happened, it works quite often , a kind of dialectic , no one wants to be the problem but wants to be part of the selected solution . This can be used against us or for us . It is clear in this passage Paul was well adept at conversing with the Greeks ,obviously a true intellect . I pray for such tact and intellect . To lead a horse to WATER ,,, and convince him he’s thirsty. But by reason not force. how wonderful it would be to able to lead people to LIVING WATER by reason and logic ! I could have avoided a few swats as a child had my parents used this.

    • Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      Amen Sean it would be awesome if we could lead the horses to living water but most are just to stubborn to drink but lets thank God for the ones that do drink and find their way to Jesus. And as you say may the lord give us the tact and intellect to be successful in our efforts to reach the lost Amen

  • Friday, July 20th, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Shane, how have you been connected to LE? I didn’t know this. What position do you fill?

  • Friday, July 20th, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. BUT… you can salt the horse.
    Paul was an excellent “horse salter.”

  • Saturday, July 21st, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Great comment Julie. Never thought of it that way!


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