Minister's Corner: Owing a Favor
I don’t know how you feel, but I would rather have someone owe me a favor than owe one any day.
Owing a favor puts me in someone’s debt. I never know what that person might ask for, or what I might have to do in order to even the score. If someone owes me a favor, I’m in the driver’s seat. I get to set the terms. I get to decide. It’s very human to feel this way, I know, and perhaps I should be more willing to place myself in another’s debt; but I still would rather be owed than owe.
This is the position of Paul and Philemon in Paul’s only personal letter to be included in Scripture. Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, has run away, and somehow wound up in prison with Paul in Rome. We don’t know whether Onesimus is a fellow prisoner, or whether he has fled to Rome on the chance that Paul might help him, or whether there is some other explanation. Whatever else we might guess about, the facts are that Paul and Onesimus are in Rome, Paul is in prison, and each has ministered in some way to the other. Onesimus has become Paul’s son in the Christian faith, and Paul has been able to bring Onesimus from a state of uselessness to a state of usefulness (the meaning of his name in Greek).