Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paul As . . . Benefactor

Paul's mission to the Gentiles was accepted by the Jerusalem leadership with one key stipulation, that he remember the poor. Paul readily agreed and this commitment can be observed throughout his letters. The church Paul founded at Philippi appears to have given abundantly. But the church at Corinth proved a different matter. Paul spends a significant amount of time in his two extant letters to Corinth laying out a giving strategy, encouraging generosity, and reminding the Corinthians of their commitment to help the poor in Jerusalem. Ultimately Paul was successful and was able to deliver a substantial contribution to those in need in Jerusalem.

Primary Sources
Galatians 2:7-10
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
2 Corinthians 8 - 9
Romans 15:25-29

Historical Question: How did Paul physically transport the offering from Greece to Jerusalem given the dangers of traveling in the ancient world with large sums of money?

1 comment:

Judy H. said...

The first thing that comes to mind is that Paul would have been traveling in the company of a larger group. Several traveling companions, representing the various Christian communities that had contributed to the Jerusalem fund, are mentioned in Acts 20. That in itself might have been a deterrent to bandits. Then, too, once they finally left Philippi, they would have been traveling primarily by ship. Sea travel posed its own dangers, but
at least they would have avoided a lot of arduous foot travel and the threat of bandits.
Another factor might have been Christian hospitality. The churches along the route provided an extended family, giving lodging and assistance. Maybe that's why hospitality has such an important place in Christian writing; safety and lodging were serious concerns for missionaries and other Christian travelers. Once Paul's group reached Tyre, they spent seven days with the disciples there, then sailed to Ptolemais and stayed with other believers. The same thing happened in Caesarea, where they stayed with Philip and his daughters for several days. When they finally set out for Jerusalem, they were again accompanied by other Christians, who brought them all the way to the city and the house of Mnason.

I think there may be a lesson in all of this for ME. This morning I got an email from our former minister, looking for a place to stay while he attends a conference in New Orleans. Perhaps, instead of groaning over having to clean house and entertain, I should be grateful for the opportunity to offer hospitality (but I'm still groaning a little bit inside).