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Philippians 2011

The Lesson of Giving

Philippians  4:10-23

Lesson audio

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 spirit.

Giving Benefits

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.

World's Way

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 your fault.

·         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 granddaughter?

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 lawnmower.

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 will provide.

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 together.

·         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 particularly easy.

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 teenage years.

·         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.

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