The letter to Philippians is indeed a thank you note. In our passage today we read of Paul’s appreciation for the kindness of the church in Philippi to care for his needs to the extent of sacrificially giving for him.
There is a certain amount of awkwardness in being a recipient of the voluntary and gracious gifts of others, while also being the fellow who is in a responsible position to be the teaching and instructional person on that very subject. I know this. I have lived this. Most pastors struggle to some extent with preaching and teaching on giving, because it smacks of having a rebound effect toward one’s own benefit.
To tell the truth, I don’t actually hate preaching on giving. Since I have not done it at TSF in one-have of forever, it is actually the designated topic for June 1st. Sure, I’d rather preach on the theology of Romans or the fabulous teachings of the letter to the Hebrews. But I have honestly come to the biblically clear position that when I am telling people to give away as much as they possibly can for God, I am telling them to do the very best thing that will bless them. So, I have come to conclude – why should I be embarrassed about or beat myself up for telling people to do the very thing that is going to be the most helpful for them?
Paul tells the Philippians that he is rejoicing greatly because of the gift that they had sent to him. And the first and most natural thought when reading that is to think, “Well, of course he’s happy to receive a pile of money; who wouldn’t be?”
So Paul makes it clear immediately that it is not all about how this will impact his life with some sort of ability to live at ease. For Paul had truly learned to be content with any circumstance of life upon the entire spectrum of having more than enough, to even the extent of living with insufficient resources to even meet his daily needs. His life contentment was unconnected to his circumstances in this matter, even as his circumstances in prison had “turned out for the best” because it gave him a new and unique opportunity to preach the gospel.
He rejoiced because this matter of generous giving had become a pattern for the Philippians. On one previous occasion, they were the only church to support him in a certain endeavor. They had regularly given toward his ministry work on other occasions. This spoke well of them.
And Paul rejoiced for them because it demonstrated their heart and depth of faith. It was a sort of spiritual barometer. They had a concern for spiritual things that transcended their own physical needs. And by being generous, they were displaying a strong and genuine faith and trust in God. And for Paul, this underlying reality gave him far more joy than anything he gained or benefitted from them.
Paul could have this confidence and joy for them because he was convinced of a timeless spiritual reality – that one cannot “out-give” God. He says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” By the world’s standards it is financial craziness to just determine to give away 10-20% of your total income. But as I have always said, “God is able to do more with 80-90% of what we possess than we are able to do with hanging onto 100% of it.”
So… give it all away!
This ends our brief Philippians devotional series. I don’t even need to tell you to do anything special to be ready for our next series over the summer on the book of Psalms – “God’s Playlist.” You are already signed up! The actual series begins on June 8th.