Reading: Offer to help out where you can

STEP THREE: Commitment - Do it!

Philemon 1:19a
I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back ....

2. Offer to help where you can.

Put your money and your effort where your mouth is.

Paul not only wants Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus for betraying Philemon, but Paul also wants Philemon to set Onesimus free. That will cost Philemon. AndPhilemon has already paid many times for Onesimus.

First, there was the cost of buying Onesimus. Then there was the cost of training him. After that, there was the cost of hunting for Onesimus when he escaped. Perhaps, added to this, was the cost of a replacement slave. Onesimus would need money to carry out his escape plan, money he no doubt stole from Philemon.

And now Paul wants Onesimus set free?

But incredibly Paul offers to pay Philemon for his losses.

There is a saying that goes like this: Talk is cheap. If you believe in something, do something about it.

So often in a church there is a need for something - an addition, an upgrade to the sanctuary space, or new carpeting. Everyone will benefit from whatever is done, but not everyone actually pitches in with money or effort.

We just updated our sanctuary at the church I serve, and some people gave considerably towards the project in time or money or even both. But many did very little in time or money.

When have you put a lot of effort into some communal project where you did most of the work? How did you end up feeling about it?

We completed the project, and now people see the vision and are excited about it. But it never would have happened if the few didn't go way beyond their share in the project.

Do I resent the people that didn't pitch in? No. We did not engage in the project first of all for the people. We did it because we thought the cause of Christ would be better served. We did it because we felt God was calling us to do it.

Sometimes the obstacle to people stepping out in faith and doing something is their extreme need for fairness.

"Last year, I worked an entire Saturday cleaning up the church yard. Someone else should do it this year.”

"I already give more money to church than most people; someone else should take on this project.”

"I already give 60% of the effort into this partnership; I'm not doing a percentage more.”

The problem or dilemma is most people's self-perception is that they do more than others, and it is just not fair to expect even more out of them.

With whom do you have a 50/50 understanding that you feel is more like 60/40?


The only answer to this dilemma is not to care that it is unfair. Just do it whether it is fair or not. Do it because it is the right thing to do.

Where do you get the motivation to do this? Look at how God treats you. You don't deserve his grace; you are often guilty of seeking first your own kingdom and only giving God what you won't miss or what you can easily afford. But God still saves you anyway. Is that fair?

If you want something done, put yourself on the line. Commit yourself and invite others to help. If people are slow in helping, double your own efforts.

Don't sit around waiting for everyone to get on board. If you do, you may be sitting your whole life.

My first church was a country church. My salary was $15,500 a year, plus housing and utilities. At the time, I didn't know what we were going to do with so much money.

After the first year, the church leaders came around to ask how my wife and I were doing financially. We told them we were fine. So they did not recommend a raise that year.

Someone in our church did not think that was right, so they sent us an anonymous check for $2,000.

God taught me early on in my ministry that He will take care of my financial needs. Ever since then, I have never asked for or discussed my finances with any church that I served. I take whatever they decide to pay.

But back to my first church. It was growing, and I felt the church needed its first secretary to take care of some of the increasing demands. The church, in its 70-year history, had never had a secretary, and it seemed like a hard sell.

The cost was $4,000 a year. Back in 1984, that was, at least, $12,000 in today's money. I felt so strongly about getting a secretary that I offered my next year's raise and then some to pay for half of it. So I would pay half, and the whole rest of the church would pay the other half.

The proposal passed. After the meeting one of the church members came up to me and said, "I am surprised that it passed.”

"Really,” I responded incredulously. "Why wouldn't it pass?”

He said, "This church has got along fine for 70 years without a secretary, why would we need one now?”

Obviously, he didn't buy into or seriously consider the list of reasons for a church secretary that came with the proposal, so I took another tact. "Look at it this way. If I, your pastor, the one working at the church day by day, think that it is needed, and if I think it so strongly that I am willing to pay half the cost, then maybe the need is real. I mean, why would I pay for something that isn't needed?”

I looked him right in the eye. "I am willing to pay the cost of something that is for the benefit of the entire church, leaving the other half for the whole congregation. Why would you not just do it for my sake alone?”

He looked at me. Nothing to say. So I finished the conversation. "We have 500 people. If we divide the congregational cost for our new secretary by 500, it comes to $4 a person. So I am willing to pay $2,000, and all I am asking you to pay is $4.”

Slam dunk.

I not only expected him to start waving the white flag of surrender but also to thank me profusely for my willingness to bear so much of the burden. Instead, he timidly said, "Well, I just didn't think we needed a secretary.” And then he walked away.

As I look back, I should have been a bit more gracious. After all, the proposal passed. Most of the members apparently supported the proposal.

Most people will respond positively to you when you, not only ask them for something, but also offer to help in the very thing you are asking. But not everyone will respond positively. Some just end up feeling guilty because of your generosity and then may turn that guilt into anger - toward you and toward whatever you are trying to accomplish.

We don't know how Philemon reacted to Paul's proposal. It really could have gone either way.

Maybe Paul's offer to pay any debt incurred by Philemon on account of what Paul was asking convicted Philemon to take Paul's desire seriously.

Or maybe Paul's offer to pay money to Philemon, money Paul did not in any way owe Philemon, may have left Philemon feeling guilty about the whole thing.

Or maybe Philemon felt like Paul was pushing him into a corner. If he accepted Paul's money, he would feel like a chump. If he refused Paul's money and kept Onesimus as a slave, he would be going against what Paul clearly wanted. So, Philemon had no choice but to set Onesimus free.

I think in the end it was the right thing for Paul to do. If you want something to happen, be the biggest supporter of the thing you want. In the end, something is going to get done.


If Philemon sets Onesimus free, it will cost Philemon the price of a slave and more. Paul puts himself out on a limb offering to pay any and all costs. Why do you think Paul proposed to do this?

Paul puts his money where his mouth is. Why is this important if you want people to commit to your way of thinking and planning?

John 3:16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Paul is willing to sacrifice himself for the life and freedom of Onesimus. When someone is trying to lead, what role does the leader's willingness to sacrifice play in getting people to follow?

How are you applying this principle to your leadership?


Last modified: Monday, August 13, 2018, 9:08 AM