Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Sharing your faith" means...?

It was over 25 years ago that a friend pointed out this verse as possibly related to evangelism, and this year I heard it applied that way again. Here it is:
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Philemon 6
In the intervening years, I happened to notice that the word translated "sharing" by the NIV editors is usually rendered "fellowship." In other words, this isn't talking about evangelism. The New American Standard editors have "fellowship of your faith" here.

So what's going on? Why do the NIV (and the RSV) have "sharing" here? They surely know the Bible better than I do, and it seems just too easy to relate the phrase "sharing your faith" to evangelism, at least for a late 20th-century audience. Did they actually think this verse was talking about that?

I don't think so. This word is translated in the King James version as "fellowship" (12x), "contribution" (Romans 15.26), "communion" (4x), "distribution" (2 Cor. 9.13), and "communication" (2x; here and in Hebrews 13.16, where the NIV also has "share": "Don't forget to ... share with others.")

At least one commentary I looked at says this is talking about generosity which is inspired by faith.

That sounds about right. So how does generosity help us, as Paul says, have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ? Here's my take on it, assisted fortunately by this morning's sermon! Our pastor mentioned today that people who give lots of money (to the poor, to the church, to missions, etc.) also tend to worry less about money.

So by sharing and generosity we worry less and better appreciate the good gifts we have from God. H'm... sounds good to me!

No comments: