Philippians Bible Study, Week 21
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 3:10-20 (NIV 2010)
Things to think about
Are you content with your situation in life? Why or why not?
Are you financially supporting someone in ministry? Do you give generously? Why or why not?
Do you feel empowered by God to endure difficult times when there is not enough food or money?
What are some of your attitudes or philosophies towards money and wealth?
In these last few paragraphs of his letter, Paul expresses his gratitude for the gifts which the Philippian church had sent to him through Epaphroditus. As already mentioned in week 3 of these Bible study notes, the Philippian church had been involved in financially supporting Paul and his ministry from its very beginning. Lydia – the first Christian convert in Europe and a wealthy woman – had hosted Paul and Silas when they first visited Philippi. It is very likely that Lydia, and the other new converts that met in her home (Acts 16:40), had given Paul and Silas a monetary gift to help them on their missionary travels. The Philippian church (situated in Macedonia) became known for its sacrificial and generous giving (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
In Philippians 4:15-16, Paul reminded the Philippian church about their previous generosity. He regarded their continuing financial support as a way of truly partnering with him in his Gospel ministry – a partnership that God would reward. Paul pointed out that his delight was not simply in the gifts themselves, but the reward the Philippians will receive because of their gifts.
In Philippians 4:15 Paul used business terminology to describe the “transactions” of the Philippians’ gifts: “an account of giving and receiving”; and Paul used business terminology again in Philippians 4:16 and wrote: “I seek the interest accruing (literally: the fruit increasing) in your account.” Even though this is financial language, it is not meant to literally convey the idea of monetary interest and credit; however, Paul did expect that the Philippians would be reimbursed by God. Paul regarded the Philippian’s gift as an offering to God, and he knew that God would acknowledge the gift and graciously reward it with his blessing (Phil. 4:19).
Paul continued with business terminology and wrote in Philippians 4:18 that he had “received payment in full.” It seems that the gift had been large. Perhaps the gift from the Philippians was intended to help finance Paul’s court case. [Paul’s court case is mentioned in the commentary on Phil. 1:7 here.]
The Secret of Contentment
Paul pointed out that his gratitude was not motivated by desperation. He had learnt to be content in all situations, whether having plenty or enduring a lack of resources including food and drink. Paul had learnt the secret of contentment (literally: self-sufficiency), even in times of adversity and lack – and he experienced plenty of those times. His contentment was not so much the act of his will; Paul’s source of sufficiency was his dependence on God and God’s grace. Paul had learned the lesson of contentment through the painful experience he describes in his second letter to the Corinthians.
… in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 (NIV)
Paul had learnt to rely on God’s grace to give him strength and he told the Philippians (literally): “I have power/strength in all [situations] in/by the one who is empowering me.” (This verse is commonly translated as: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”) It is the power of God, and the presence of Christ, administered by the Holy Spirit, which enabled Paul to always be strong, resilient and content in whatever circumstances he experienced. In 1 Timothy 1:12 Paul wrote that it was “Christ Jesus our Lord, who has empowered me.”
Money and Ministry
While we rely on the Holy Spirit and the power of Jesus Christ in ministry, there are many times when ministry requires practical and financial support. Most ministries and ministers need money. Paul was not shy in speaking about money. In 2 Corinthians chapter 9 he spoke about God providing abundance to his people, but that this abundance was to be used in ministry, particularly in generous giving to help the poor.
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
2 Corinthians 9:8-12 (Italics added)
In the previous chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul had written, “The goal is equality!” (2 Cor. 8:14c) This ideal of financial equality is not that some people are wealthy while others are struggling to survive. Poverty remains a worldwide issue, and a complex one. In what ways can you be part of the solution?
Mind-sets about Money and Materialism
Money is a very important factor in our lives, and it is a necessary tool. We need it to buy the necessities of life, and the extras that can make life more enjoyable. I do believe that God wants us to enjoy life where possible, without ignoring the needs of others, or exploiting them.
Our attitude to money can be a powerful and influential force in our lives. We might be carefree and generous, or possessive and fearful when it comes to parting with finances. We might be content with very little, or discontent even though wealthy. Our attitude towards finances could well be an area that God needs to work on.
Having said that, I am dismayed by the churches that have an offering spiel every time they collect an offering – talks that often use clever or emotive ploys to encourage greater giving with promises of riches in return. Rather than speaking about finances every single week, sometimes every single service, there are many much more important issues that could be communicated in church meetings! Focusing too much on money can’t be a good thing, especially considering that Jesus told us not to be concerned with our material needs. Jesus taught that if our priority and focus is on God’s Kingdom and his justice, he will give us everything we need (Matt. 6:25-34).
In view of the generosity of the Philippians, Paul wrote: “My God will fully/ completely supply every need of yours according to his riches/wealth in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). This is an amazing promise! Paul had previously told the Philippians not to worry about anything but to bring all their requests and needs to God (Phil. 4:6). Here he tells the Philippians that God will fully and completely meet their any and every need. These needs might be material: money, food or shelter; or physical: health and strength; or social: relationships and work-related; or spiritual, etc. God would not only meet their needs but he would answer them according to his glorious wealth – a wealth that we cannot fully appreciate. God hears our prayers, meets our needs, and blesses us because we belong to Jesus Christ his son. No wonder Paul ended this section by giving glory to God because of his amazing provision.
In Ephesians, Paul began his letter by giving glory to God:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ . . . In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. … I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. From Ephesians 1:3ff.
 The KJV has “through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13b); however, the word “Christ” is absent in the oldest Greek manuscripts.
 Other issues that could be spoken about every week that are possibly more important than money include prayer, loving relationships, holiness, justice … the list goes on.
© 4th of February 2011, Margaret Mowczko
« Week 20: Prayer and Peace – Philippians 4:6-9
» Week 22: Closing Greetings – Philippians 4:21-23
Week 3: Paul’s Thanks – Philippians 1:3-6
“Equality” in Paul’s Letters
The Holy Spirit and Equality
Was Jesus Poor?