Philippians 4:10-23 NASB
(10) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that
now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. (11) Not that I speak from want, for I have learned
to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (12)
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in
prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being
filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (13) I can do all things through Him who strengthens
me. (14) Nevertheless, you have done well to
share with me in my affliction. (15) You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at
the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared
with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; (16) for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. (17) Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for
the profit which increases to your account. (18)
But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply
supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant
aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. (19)
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in
Christ Jesus. (20) Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (21) Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren
who are with me greet you. (22) All the
saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. (23) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your
This section of Scripture doesn't seem to be about giving,
per se. In fact, it looks very much like one of Paul's farewells with a thank
you thrown in. As we shall see, there is more to it than that.
The world sees giving in a very different way than the
Christian does. Perhaps the most striking difference is in the motive for
giving. If you want to raise funds for secular cause, you will need to note
these factors in why people give:
One reason is ego. People like to see their name in lights,
people like to be praised, people like to be invited back to the old college
and told what a great graduate they have been.
If that doesn't work, there's always guilt. That nagging
sensation that you have it well off and somebody else doesn't — and it's all
Sympathy – it really helps if you have big, wide eyes. That's why
many agencies use the pictures of small children, preferably starving.
Failing those, there is always the appeal of the crowd. Everybody
else is giving, so should you.
One part of this is that the "rich" participate,
while the "poor" do not. Charity is a rich man's game. The key question,
of course, is when are you rich? If the amount requested is small enough, most
of us are rich.
The key point is this: in the world's way of looking at
charity, the primary beneficiary is the recipient of the charity. The giver is
lauded for his sacrifice.
The Worthy Recipient
One of the reasons that Christians do not give out money to
guys standing by the roadside with the cardboard sign is that they feel they
are all frauds. This is a slight symptom of a rather difficult issue: the
question of the worthiness of the recipient. We don't want somebody taking our
money and spending it on booze. We want the recipient of our charity to be a worthy
person. Let me ask you something: just who is that person by the roadside
cheating? If you give because of your love of Christ and his command to assist
the poor, isn't this man defrauding God? It's a good reason not to give to an
obvious fraud – because it's going to get even more trouble more quickly.
Let's examine this entire business of "worthy
recipient." I submit to you that the issue is not usually worthiness; most
people who are in trouble are there because of their own stupid mistakes. If
you're going to make worthiness a criterion for giving, your giving will be
infrequent indeed. So let me ask you: does make a difference who receives? You
might not want to have any money going to unwed mothers — but suppose it's your
You have heard that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Saint
John Chrysostom wrote about this; he pointed out that this applies just as well
to the person who gives charity on behalf of the church. Those of you who are
local at Eastside will know the name, "Artie". He is the epitome of
the cheerful giver. He needs to be; most of the people we give charity to our
in trouble because of someone's stupid mistakes. If the giver is not cheerful,
they will soon descend into cynicism and the giving of the church will dry up
quickly. Christianity does not require us to ask the worthiness of the giver;
we are only to look at the worthiness of the gift.
Christian View of Giving
The most radical difference between the world's method of
giving and the Christian's method of giving is this: the giver is the primary
beneficiary. How so?
Giving makes the Christian more like God, who gave freely to us.
When a Christian gives, he gives out of love — and therefore love
abounds. It's hard to think of that as a bad thing.
When the Christian gives, God rewards. And he is much more
generous with his rewards them the world is.
Abased and Abound
Of course, the Scripture has much to say about the recipient
as well. Being a receiver carries with it certain attributes as well.
Most of us do not think about our expectations. We are like
the rich man who always wanted more but never really thought about it. Our
expectations are set almost by chance — and massive advertising, of course. The
advertising always wants us to want more.
The simple fact is that we do not manage our expectations
very well. We just let them happen — and then we are surprised at the results.
When we see this in others, it seems absurd. But to us, it seems normal. What
we should be doing is managing our expectations. So let me ask you: do you know
what it is you need? Have you written it down? It may surprise you to see how
much you don't really need. In fact, have you ever had the experience of losing
something and then realizing you didn't need it really? Our Lord taught us to
consider the lilies of the field; for some of us, that means we need a new
My God Will Supply
Of course you know why it is our need seem so high. We are
worried about the future; we might not need it now, but we are sure were going
to need it someday. And the only way we know to make sure it will be there is
to keep stashed in the garage. To the contrary, our Lord declares that he will
supply our every need. Do you see how our expectations have been set this way?
We have it, we need, we need to hang onto it and God does not need to supply
us. Sometimes he arranges that we lose this stuff, so that we will see that he
Permit this teacher to give you himself as an example. Four
years ago I was laid off. I am over 60, and that means in my particular
profession that absolutely no one will hire you. I made over $100,000 a year.
This was our primary earnings source, so we therefore had to adjust to the loss
of that money. In fact, God has to continue to supply what we need – and has
greatly sharpened my opinion on the subject of what I want. This is a matter of
faith, and I can assure you from personal experience, God means what he says.
It is no secret that the chief supplier that God uses is the
church. Many of us are reluctant to accept such assistance; in fact, in our
case it was unnecessary. But there was a time in my life where I did have to
accept such gift. The Minister's wife (a sweet soul) brought a food basket by.
I didn't have two nickels to make change for a time, but my pride insisted that
she "give it to someone who really needs it." With great wisdom she
replied, "If you will not receive, how will they ever learn to give?"
Can you imagine how much stronger the church would be if those who receive did
so in a spirit of humility, not pride; and those who give do so with a cheerful
heart and abundance of love?
“Affliction is an unbroken bond, the increase of love and
the occasion of compunction and piety.” (Saint John Chrysostom.) I have hinted
at this before, but let me make it explicit: an active life of charity in the
church is a great source of Christian growth and unity.
In affliction we have that unbroken bond, we share with others
the things that they need at the moment they meet them, and that draws us
If this is to work at all, it must come from an abundance of love
in the giver's heart. Anything else will be delivered with pious censoriousness
— and will fail. But if it is done right, love abounds.
What this does for the individual giver might surprise you. I
know we don't use the word pious very much more, but this process makes the
giver more pious.
A Teacher's Glory
Paul makes quite a fuss over his students here. He's trying
to do two things at the same time: first he wants to thank them for their gift
and tell them that they have done well. But the same time he doesn't want to
give them the idea that he was begging or desperate for a gift. This is not
Cleaning the Room
I've used this illustration a few times before, but I think
it appropriate. Suppose you want your teenager’s room to be neat, clean and
tidy. There are basically three ways to make this happen:
You could just rent a bulldozer. You'll need a couple of dump
trucks too. You will have to repeat the process several times through his
But what you wanted was for the teenager to clean up the room,
right? For that, you'll need a bull whip.
Is it just possible you wanted the teenager to want to
clean up his room? That's different.
The teacher is in much the situation with his students. If
you teach the Scriptures, you want your students to do what they are supposed
to do because they know they are supposed to do it and they want to do it. Paul
has achieved that here, with the Philippians.
Models of Teaching
A similar set of options exists in the teaching world.
You can take the "just the facts" approach to teaching.
You give your students the facts, and hope that they will act upon them
correctly. The problem with this is that there is no route from the indicative
to the imperative (as my junior high English teacher, Miss Hornbuckle, so often
put it.) Just because you know something will damage the world, doesn't
necessarily mean you have sense enough not to do it.
Most teachers are all for the facts, but put in a little bit of
exhortation as well. The reason is quite simple: you don't want your students
to just know the facts; you want them to act on the facts. If just knowing the
facts produces no results, what good are the facts?
If the truth were known, however, almost all of the good teachers
I have ever known would tell you the same thing: they want their students to do
just like they do. They want their students to imitate, to accept the values
and actions necessary as well as the facts.
Levels of Success
So when the teacher looks at his students, he hopes for
these three increasing levels of success.
First, we would like you to do what you're supposed to do when we
remind you to do it. It gives you the chance to practice what is right. So when
we hand you a prayer list, we are in the expectation that you will read the
prayer list and use it during your prayer time. If you don't have a prayer
time, you haven't been listening.
Of course, beyond that we want you to do the things you should do
willingly, which (I hope) is what your teacher does to give you an example.
But the great hope of any really good teacher is this: that you
will rise so far in the faith that you will exceed your teacher. It doesn't
happen often, I suppose, but when it does it is of great joy to the teacher.
The closer you draw to Jesus Christ, the happier I'll be.