Unlike many Jewish leaders, James and the elders were not jealous of Paul’s success among the Gentiles. But they were aware that not everyone was so accepting. To head off problems, the elders asked him to pay the costs of men completing a vow. Likely a Nazirite vow, this voluntary, temporary commitment to total dedication to God required extensive sacrifices, including a female lamb, a male lamb, unleavened bread, loaves of bread, crackers, oil, and a grain and drink offering.
Paul wasn’t buying acceptance. In 1 Corinthians 9 he writes “19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” He had one and only one goal….to win others to Christ. Let’s be as focused as Paul.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- If people who knew you were to guess what your main goal was, what might they guess? Would they be right?
- How have you become “like others” (while remaining true to Christ’s law) in order to be able to share the good news with them?
- What group(s) of people would you want to be accepted by, so that they are willing to hear from you about Jesus Christ? How can you go about this mission?
- What was Paul willing to do, and willing to give up, in order to reach more people with the saving gospel? What are you willing to do, and willing to give up, for the same purpose?