His name means “useful,” and although he was once useless to you, he has now become most useful — not only to you but also to me. – Philemon 1:11
In his shortest recorded letter Paul writes to his longtime friend, Philemon, and requests that this brother in the faith allow his servant Onesimus to serve Paul in matters of ministry. Onesimus had been the slave of Phil in earlier times, and still was technically and legally, but he had become a son in the faith to Paul and had served Paul well. Paul notes that where Onesimus was once unprofitable to Phil, he is now useful to Paul. Thus, Paul wants him to continue working with him but only under the consent of Phil.
Are you an Onesimus to someone? Do you feel like your name should be Onesimus – useful? When I read the words of Paul above concerning the usefulness of a brother in Christ whereas at one point under his master’s servitude he was useless, I get a sense of purpose in my life. In my current occupation and career I feel like the former Onesimus despite the name’s meaning. I, too, like Onesimus wanted to run away from the indentured servitude to which I am bound for a more lucrative and useful work elsewhere.
Then I had to stop and think for a moment that so long as I am a member of the family of God, as Paul describes Onesimus, then I am useful not to me but to God, himself. The world may consider me useless for anything other than servitude of the most mundane order, but God looks upon me as child with a purpose, vision, and mission – to do his will and not mine. He looks to me to be obedient and willing to serve him anywhere, anytime, and any how he wants. This is where I derive my usefulness and not in whom I define myself or allow the world to define me.
God has a useful purpose for every person on the earth – to love him and serve him foremost but also to love and serve our neighbors. The world might think we are just numbers on an ID card or another face in the crowd, but God sees us as his own reflection multiplied upon the earth again and again. Do you see yourself as useless as the world defines you? Or, do you see yourself useful as God defines you? The choice is yours.
Father, thank you for looking on the heart of man rather than his outward appearance. The world could little care about me or anyone else. It merely wants to dictate our lives and existence and control us and enslave us to its whims whereas you want to liberate and free us to serve and love you. The world thinks we have no use or purpose, but you had a purpose for our lives before we where formed in the womb. You planned to prosper us and care for us and give us purpose. Please do that work within me. Help me to be useful for the sake of the Good News of Jesus and your kingdom. Again, your will be done, not mine. In Jesus’ name, Amen.