THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: Philip and Silas...happy playing second fiddle

I met Prince Philip once.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 11:20 am

To be strictly honest, before days of social distancing, I was standing about two metres from him, as he regaled the proud parents of Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award winners!

Following Friday’s news of his passing at the age of 99, media coverage focussed on his many interests and talents, and the difference he made to the lives of thousands of young people through the inauguration of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

While he had a distinguished naval career, and could have risen to high rank, Philip left that behind to be his wife’s strength and guide when she became Queen.

Rev David Clarke

Difficult though it must have been for an able and energetic man always to stay just a few steps behind his wife, he played the role to perfection.

An old couplet has it, ‘It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well’. But Philip found the grace to do it.

One man who was content to play second fiddle helped to change twentieth-century history. Frederick Engels collaborated with Karl Marx, and when he sold his shares in a Manchester textile firm, sent him an annual allowance of £350, a considerable sum in the 1860’s.

His letters to Marx are filled with the advice ‘Get on with your book’. The book was ’Das Kapital’, the foundation text of communism.

The New Testament tells of one who willingly played ‘second fiddle’. Silas was not an apostle but his name was linked at different times with other key biblical figures; Barnabas (Acts 15;22), Paul (Acts 16;25), and Timothy (Acts 17;14). When Peter was writing to his Christian friends, he called Silas a ‘faithful brother’ (1 Peter 5; 12). He was always in the background, not seeking the limelight, but playing a key role.

Silas was with Paul during what became known as Paul’s second missionary journey.

There had been a rift in relations between Paul and Barnabas, and Silas was called upon to take the latter’s place.

There is not a hint that he resented being second choice, and when the journey landed them both in prison, Silas did not complain of the hardship. Indeed, while imprisoned in Philippi, we read that Paul and Silas were singing at midnight (Acts 16;25). Since it is the only time when we are told anything about Paul singing, it would seem that Silas was a great man at raising his spirits.

The part played by Silas is summarised in this verse; ‘Silas...said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers’(Acts 15;32).

As someone said, ‘It is amazing what can be done, if you don’t mind who gets the credit’. Prince Philip’s life reminds us that ‘playing second fiddle’ is not insignificant!