During my travels, I have noticed many people standing by traffic lights asking for money. I have never been comfortable giving to these people because of something that happened in Columbus a few years ago. As I was driving toward Cleveland Avenue, I saw a woman pushing a cart and passing out cardboard signs for beggars to hold on each corner. What? Do you think that these street beggars are organized by someone? Apparently, this was the case.
While these false beggars should not be encouraged, there are some people who are truly in need. Perhaps you have heard of the family that lost their home in the recent tornado. Or you may have heard about an offering taken to help Peniel Bible Camp or a missionary. When there is a real need, loving Christians have graciously given to meet the need and have been a blessing to those who needed it.
In today’s message, we will be looking at Philippians 4:10-20. In these verses, Paul commends the Philippian believers for giving toward his needs and shares four principles that will help us to become cheerful givers.
- Joy comes from giving (Philippians 4:10).
The first thing that Paul expresses is the joy he experienced when the Philippians showed their care for him by giving him a gift to meet his needs. If you have ever received a gift at a particularly needy time or have given to a needy person, you know the joy and thankfulness that results. “Thank you so much!”
Where does joy come from?
Sadly, some may not understand Paul’s motives in thanking these Christians. “The question might be asked, ‘Is this a weakness in Paul, to go into such raptures over merely earthly goods, as if he was a child who had just received a new toy? Or were his remarks to be taken as an expression of dire want, a kind of complaint with the implication, Please send me another gift soon?”6 But do you really think this is why Paul was reacting with such joy? No, he was joyful “in the Lord.” The gift was great and the people were helpful. But it was the Lord that brought such joy to Paul’s heart. He was glad to see how the Lord was working in their heart, motivating them to give toward his ministry work. As a result, “through them God had met his needs.”1
How does care flourish?
You may notice that Paul talks about their care flourishing. When something flourishes, it suddenly shows up in a big way. “As soon as the news of Paul’s imprisonment had become known in Philippi the desire had sprung up ‘to do something’ to help him. But at first no favorable opportunity had presented itself. It may have been that no messenger had been immediately available, or that for some reason or other it had been impossible to collect the gift from the various members. … As soon as this situation changed, the Philippians had acted with characteristic enthusiasm and devotion.”6
I remember when one of our missionaries was robbed and his phone was stolen. While I was considering what to do, I learned that someone had already given toward that need. They were quick to give and the need was quickly met. This seems to be how the Philippians responded when they heard of Paul’s need. Their care for him flourished.
Have you experienced the joy of giving and receiving? This is not a message designed to ask for support for anything. But there may come a time when you will hear that a church, missionary, or person is in need. It is good to prepare yourself ahead of time by setting aside money to help. But in any case, when you give, give cheerfully and rejoice in what God does through your gift. And if someone gives to help you in your own need, thank God for them and for what He has done for you.
- Contentment comes from Jesus (Philippians 4:11-13).
In today’s culture, contentment is not something many have. People want more than their parents had at their age. We are blessed with an abundance of wealth and yet are we any more content? If only we had a better car, television, home, job, bank account, etc. “Many of us think that if things are going right and if we are in the right place, then we will be contented. That means that we depend on the circumstances of life for our contentment.”3 But that isn’t where contentment is found.
How do we learn contentment?
“The word content (autarkes) means ‘self-sufficient.’ The Stoics used this word (which occurs only here in the NT) to mean human self-reliance and fortitude, a calm acceptance of life’s pressures. But Paul used it to refer to a divinely bestowed sufficiency, whatever the circumstances.”1 In other words, contentment is something that God gives us when we are content in Him. When we look to Him to meet all of our needs, we will learn to be content with what God provides.
How did Paul learn contentment? Paul experienced many ups and downs during his life. He had been beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and many other things and yet he sang in prison (Acts 16). He learned to be content wherever he was. But he also learned to be content when things were going well. While in Philippi, he and his ministry team were taken care of by the business woman, Lydia (Acts 16:15, 40). During his travels, the church at Philippi had given above and beyond what was needed on several occasions.
How does Jesus empower contentment?
In verse 13, Paul tells us where he found contentment in any situation. He found the strength to endure in Christ (another name for Jesus). “Paul said he could do everything—including handling poverty and living in abundance—through Him who gave him strength. This was not an expression of pride in his own abilities but a declaration of the strength provided by Christ.”2
Athletes have used this verse to motivate them during competition, but is this really what Paul was talking about? “When Paul says all things, does he literally mean all things? Does it mean you can go outside and jump over your house? Of course not. Paul says, ‘I can do all things in Christ’—that is, in the context of the will of Christ for your life. Whatever Christ has for you to do, He will supply the power.”4
So, if God wants me to be poor, He will supply me the power to endure poverty. If He wants me to be rich, He will supply me the power to use it for good purposes. With the strength given by Christ, I can do anything that God wants me to do. But do you believe that? Or do you think, “I could never do ______.” If you are a Christian, Jesus will give you the strength to do anything that He needs you to do. Will you trust Him to give you the strength you need?
- Benefits come from giving (Philippians 4:14-17).
After all that he had just said, “Paul is careful not to leave the impression that the gift had been superfluous and that he did not appreciate it. On the contrary, he indicates that he was definitely pleased with it.”7 They had done well in giving at that time (14). In fact, he recalled that they were the only church to help him when he was in need on several different occasions (15-16). But he wasn’t mentioning this for his own benefit. He was more interested in seeing spiritual fruit in their lives (17). This brings up a question.
What benefit is giving to the giver?
We can see the benefit to the person who received the gift. But Paul seems to indicate that he was more concerned with what benefits would be received by the people who gave the gift to him. “Right giving always enriches the giver. ‘The liberal soul shall be made fat’ (Prov. 11:25). ‘He who pities the poor lends to the Lord’ (Prov. 19:17). ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy’ (Matt. 5:7). ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (II Cor. 9:7).”8 In each of these verses, there is a benefit to the giver. God tends to honor the one who gives to others with the right attitude.
Do we give so that we can get or to be blessed by God? No, that would be the wrong motivation for giving. As we have been given so much by God, it should come naturally to do the same for others. And as we do that, God will be pleased.
- Provision ultimately comes from God (Philippians 4:18-20).
At this point in his ministry, Paul was doing well financially. The gift given by the Philippian Christians was more than enough to meet his needs. “Paul did not want them to think he was still looking for more from them. He had received from the Philippians full payment, all the money they had sent, so he was then abounding and was amply supplied.”2 Epaphroditus had brought their gift to him and it had provided for his needs.
What did they give him? “Just what was included in those gifts we are not told. Possibilities: money to cover expenses, reading materials, clothes (cf. II Tim. 4:13 for the last two items for which Paul asks at a later occasion).”8 Whatever it was, it was more than enough to meet the need.
Who does God use to provide the needs of others?
God often uses people to provide for the needs of others. When a missionary prayer letter arrives and a need is mentioned, God often moves the heart of a believer to send a gift to meet that need. When the church sign is getting old and dilapidated, someone sees the need and gives toward replacing it. God uses people and we ought to make ourselves available as those needs arise.
When we give gifts in a cheerful manner, God acknowledges it in the same way that he acknowledged the sweet-smelling sacrifices in the temple. Their gift was “not merely an act of sympathy shown to a friend in need but a genuine offering presented to God to promote his cause.”9 So when you give toward the needs of others, you are being used by God to meet these needs. Hopefully, God will use each of us to help others this week. And as we do, He will be pleased.
How does God provide for our needs?
To this point, Paul had been talking about how the Philippian believers had met his needs. But now, he turns the attention to how God would meet their own needs. He was confident that “God would reciprocate to the Philippians. They had met Paul’s needs and now God would meet theirs.”2 Through the limitless and glorious riches of Jesus, their needs would be met.
Throughout biblical history, God has provided for the needs of His people:
Gen. 21:17-20 – God provided water for Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness.
Ex. 16:4-6 – God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness.
1 Kings 17:4-6 – God provided bread and meat for Elijah which was brought by ravens.
Matt. 6:31-33 – God promises to provide food and clothing when we seek His kingdom first.
Could it be possible that you are currently wondering how your needs will be met? Have you ever considered that God can be trusted to help you? We often face needs and then try to find a way to sell something, work harder, or complain louder. Maybe, just maybe, we should stop all the commotion and turn to the Lord to meet our needs. If He could provide for so many people before us, He can surely do it again today. And that is probably why Paul concludes with verse 20. God deserves the glory for all that He has done and will do for each of us.
During our study we have learned four things:
1. Joy comes from giving (10). When the Lord uses someone to meet a need in another person’s life, there is great joy in what God has done through that person.
2. Contentment comes from Jesus (11-13). When we stop depending on our circumstances or possessions to bring us happiness and start looking to the Lord for the strength to endure difficulties, we will learn that contentment is more valuable than anything. That contentment comes from the Lord.
3. Benefits come from giving (14-17). When we stop clutching at our pearls and start giving to others, there is a definite benefit given to us by God. We not only find contentment in what He has provided, but we become people who are blessed by God for giving.
4. Provision ultimately comes from God (18-20). When we finally realize that God is the ultimate Giver, it will change the things that we focus on. We will no longer fret about our circumstances but will instead trust God to meet our needs through His limitless resources through Jesus.
With God’s help, let each of us trust the Lord to meet our own needs and then seek to be used by God to help others who are in need.
1 Lightner 664.
2 Lightner 665.
3 McGee 326.
4 McGee 327.
5 McGee 328.
6 Hendriksen 204.
7 Hendriksen 207.
8 Hendriksen 208.
9 Hendriksen 209.
Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 203-.
Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 664-65.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 326-.