Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 

As Paul open this letter – his shortest recorded epistle – he does so with words of affirmation, appreciation and blessing.

The blessing comes in the form of a short, simple (yet profound) prayer (3).

The words of affirmation are for certain personal characteristics (1b, 2a) and qualities (4,5).

I often think of the story of the Scottish minister who was told, as a boy, by the local sweet shop lady, ‘Flattery is like perfume sonny. It’s okay to sniff the bottle, but don’t swallow the contents.’

The same goes even for sincere compliments. There are good and godly ways to encourage people, and it seems to me Paul repeatedly got the balance right. He found a way to let them get a good sniff of the bottle while always giving the glory to God.

(By the way, Philemon was not, as far as we know, a major leader in the church, but he was probably a wealthy man who had a house big enough for the church to meet in. Nevertheless Paul called him a ”fellow worker.”)

PRAYER: Lord, please give me words to encourage, lips to bless in prayer, and a heart that always seeks to honour and glorify you above all.