A Gratitude for Christian Giving
Written by Dr. Ken Hemphill
The attitude of gratitude distinguishes the Christian from the non-Christian. Speaking of the unsaved, Paul writes “For thought they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude” (Rom. 1:21a, Holman Christian Standard Bible). When we understand what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, our lives will be marked by gratitude. Paul touches on this attitude when appealing to his friend Philemon in regard to Onesimus, the runaway slave.
Paul first requested that Philemon receive Onesimus home as a brother, not a slave. The phrase “both in the flesh and in the Lord” (v. 16, HCSB) indicates Paul’s desire that Onesimus be treated as a believer and a free man. Further, Philemon is to consider him as a partner just as he does Paul (v. 17). To remove any obstacle to a friendly reception, Paul offers to compensate Philemon for any loss incurred (v. 18).
For Philemon to follow Paul’s requests, he would have to choose gratitude for how God had intervened in Onesimus’s life by saving him. He would have to move beyond seeing Onesimus as the one who had deserted his duty. This would not be easy.
Then Paul asks for even more. He appeals to Philemon to send Onesimus back to minister to Paul in prison. This act will benefit Paul by refreshing his heart in Christ (v. 20). Paul speaks to Philemon’s heart, reminding him of their close friendship: “I, Paul, write this with my own hand . . . not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self” (v. 19, HCSB). By returning Onesimus, Philemon has the opportunity to express gratitude to God for his own conversion through the ministry of Paul.
When we recall that God gave His only begotten Son to forgive out sins and restore the usefulness of our lives, we are compelled in gratitude to invest the remainder of our lives in His Kingdom. Like Philemon, we can choose gratitude for all God has done, giving everything for His use and purposes.