KEEP THE SLAVES OPPRESSED? This chapter begins with a somewhat eyebrow raising instruction that Christian slaves must continue in their slavery. Instead Paul tells them to glorify God by being the best slave they can be. Even the Christian slave masters aren't told to free their slaves as we might expect (although Paul encourages Philemon to do so as we read a few months ago). But before you begin to think that Paul is perpetuating systemic racism, remember that he's writing this letter to Pastor Timothy from prison. Paul personally knows that the suffering people endure in this world, be it slavery, imprisonment or anything else, is a temporary condition, and that free or not, all Christians can use their position in life to build up treasure in heaven.
SPEAKING OF TREASURE: Paul has no tolerance for those who are only motivated by greed. He calls those who are continually stirring the pot and trying to better their own position contrary to godly teaching and says they are conceited and know-nothings.
DIVINE ECONOMY: This is why it's so important to read the Bible in large chunks and not just a verse or two at a time. If you took the opening verses about slaves out of context, you might conclude that Paul was positioning the privileged members of the church to keep their power, but v6 helps put it all in perspective:
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
Paul's point is that slaves have just as much opportunity, if not more, to gain contentment in life than do the rich and powerful. The greedy will never find contentment, and instead their "love for money (v10)" will lead them into traps that plunge them into ruin and destruction.
CHRISTIANS ARE BOTH RICH AND POOR: Sometimes after reading chapters like this it's easy to think that all rich people are bad and all poor slaves are good, but that's not the case at all. This chapter begins with instructions to Christian slaves, and ends with instructions to Christian wealthy people, but the instructions essentially are the same: don't put too much stock in your present economic condition, be it rich or poor, but instead build up treasure in heaven (v17-19)
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father God, who gives life to everything (v13)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will strengthen you to "fight the good fight of the faith (v12)."
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: