But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Philemon 14

The context of this verse is Paul sending Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul knew Philemon since he was a Christian at the church in Colosse. Onesimus had been Philemon’s slave who had apparently stolen from Philemon and then ran away. But in the amazing providence of God, Onesimus went to Rome, met Paul and subsequently became a Christian. Paul was now sending Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul says, “I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me” (verse 13).

Paul could’ve kept Onesimus with him while he was in prison in Rome. Onesimus would’ve been able to provide Paul with food and other supplies which would have made Paul’s life a little easier, but he didn’t want to presume upon Philemon’s kindness. Even though it seems clear that Philemon would have been happy to help Paul in any way he could, “knowing that you will do even more that I ask” (verse 21).

We do others a disservice when we presume upon their kindness or put them under some sort of obligation to assist, even if it’s for the cause of the gospel. We may see a great opportunity to advance the kingdom but we mustn’t pressurise fellow believers into in doing a kindness for someone without their freely given consent.

It’s God who convicts, challenges and guides his children, not us. Our finest service for God is given freely from a heart of thankfulness, not from a sense of obligation.