When the issue of money and giving is raised in the context of the Christian Faith a particular picture often comes to mind. Perhaps of the money grabbing TV evangelists. I heard of one such who had wires connected to the seats in his church. ‘Stand up if you’re willing to give $100 to God, he shouted’ as he said this, he pressed a button and electricity surged through the seats. There was a tremendous response, but later the sidesman found three dead Scotsmen clinging to their pews!
The picture Saint Paul paints here is quite different from this. He writes to thank this group of Christians at Philippi that who have generously sent him money via Epaphroditus. In A purple passage which includes two of the most wonderful promises in the Bible he outlines the threefold blessing of generous giving. He doesn’t have to bully us or guilt trip us to give generously. Giving, he says is a blessing! It’s such a great thing ..get involved. The first part of the threefold blessing:
1. Generous giving brings blessing to others.
Paul thanks the Philiipians for making him so happy. He writes 10 I rejoice 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.’
Then, In the next verses he, Paul, reveals his attitude to money.
On the one hand, he writes, that in some ways he does not need the money. ’11 I am not saying this because I am in need’
why has he no need? Because, he tells us, he has learned something very important. Before he was a Christian Paul tells us in Ro 7:8 that he used to be envious of others and to covet others wealth and possesions. Now he has v11 ‘learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’
Look at what he says: v12 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.’
Martin luther, the craft beer drinking german monk and architect of the protestant reformation once said, ‘contentment is a rare bird, but it sings sweetly in the breast.’ Who doesn’t want to be deeply content?
What is the secret of contentment? Many think that the secret is to have everything they want. They say to themselves if only I had a better house, a bigger car, more money then I would be content.’ Others think the secret lies in human relationships or in looking beautiful.
But experience tells us that these thing do not bring contentment, in fact on the contrary they can make us more unsettled and thirsty, we tend to need more amd more of the same. John D rockerfeller, founder of the standard oil company, who made 100s of millions of dollar's was once asked, ‘how much money does it take to make a man happy? To which He answered ‘just a little bit more.’
Paul has learned to be content in any and every situation. He’s not saying there is anything wrong with having food and posessions, but these cannot be the primary source of our contentment. that is to make these things idols, gods - to look to them, uncertain, fragile created things for our life. That’s very foolish. We’re destined to be disappointed to remain discontented.
For Paul the secret of real contentment is the transforming friendship of Jesus Christ. He writes, ‘13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ See, He’s learned to live not on his outer resources, but on his inner resources. Knowing Jesus. Trusting Jesus. The person who has learned this secret is truly rich. Jeremiah Burrows. The rare jewel of Christian contentment. Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman, once said, ‘content makes poor men rich; discontent makes Rich men poor.’ Paul was always rich because, in Christ, he had found the secret of contentment. For this reason he was able to write to the Philippians that in some ways he just did not need their money.
However, in some ways he did need the money. He writes: 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(NB) 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.
Paul had ‘troubles’ v14 and had been ‘in need’ v16. The Philippians had shared in his troubles and had generously sent him money again and again. The word used for ‘share’ is a word derived from the Greek word koinonia which means fellowship, communion close relationship,. Its a favourite expression for the marital relationship as the most intimate between human beings. Sharing is a vital part of life with those with whom we have a close relationship.
In the NT the church is likened to a family. a close family. Christians are brothers and sisters. Amd In the church, sharing should take place spontaneously or in planned ways in order to meet all its needs. Everyone’s involved so that the entire burden does not fall on a few, and so that the needs of the less well off can be met. This is the way of bringing blessing to individuals who, like Paul, are in need, and blessing to the church which has its needs met also.
Very expensive city. Pressure of housing pushes some of our members out from being to live here. How do we act as a sharing fellowship? Are there ways in which we as a church can bear each other’s burdens? bless and provide for one another?
Generous giving brings blessing to others.
2. Generous giving brings blessing to the lives of those who give
Paul does not want the Philippians to think that he's only asking them for money. In fact, he's more concerned that they should be blessed.
All through the passage, Paul uses technical banking and accounting terms. In verse 15 where he speaks about this matter of giving and receiving literally he’s speaking about credit and debit, income and outgoings, the two sides of an accountants ledger. In v17 he writes about profit and interest. The word ‘credited’ was a word used in banking for financial growth. Finally, in v18 when he says, ‘I have received full payment’ he uses another commercial term, apparently meaning to ‘receive a sum in full and give a receipt for it’
Put in commercial terms, Paul is saying that giving is an investment of Capital. Elsewhere (2 cor 9) to speak about generous giving Paul uses the picture of a farmer sowing seed: ‘remember this who ever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and who ever sows generously will also reap generously.’. Giving is planting seed. The farmer knows he is investing for the future, for he knows that he will reap far more than he has sown.
Generous giving brings blessing to the lives of those who give
Hudson Taylor founded the china inland mission in the 19th C. Thousands became christians through him and it’s said that the he laid the foundations for the current revival of christian faith in china where millions are turning to Jesus. At the age of 27 he was preparing for one of his earliest trips to china he was working v hard and living a very frugal life. He ate a bowl of porridge in the morning and a bowl of gruel on alternate nights. He was asked to go and pray for a very poor family where the mother was dying. He was appalled by their poverty. the only money he had was his weeks wages of half a crown. as he prayed for them he agonised about how much he could spare to give them. Every proprtion he settled on felt too little. In the end he gave all he had. and returned home penniless but joyful. that night he reminded God of proverbs 19v17 ‘he that gives to the poor lends to the lord’ he asked the lord to not let the loan be a long one and he slept soundly. The following day an unexpected letter arrived - a pair of gloves and half a sovereign! a 400% return on his loan in the space of 12 hours! The incident was a turning point in his life. he came back to it again and again. Learning to trust God in small things prepares us for the serious trials of life.
Now God doesn’t promise to make us financially rich when we give. He absolutely doesn’t. But this spiritual principle applies to everything in life. Whatever we give to God, he multiplies, Whether it is our time, home, gifts, ambitions, or money. The return on our investment is not usually financial, (though we can trust God to provide for our needs as we will see). Rather, as we invest in people we receive the blessing of seeing lives changed, people coming into the kingdom of God, the hungry being fed, and naked clothed, drug addicts set free, marriages restored and the sick healed. Everytime we hear a report back from a work in which we have invested, we are reaping the reward for our investment. For the most part we will have to wait til heaven to see the harvest, but we get occasional glimpses of It here and now, as a foretaste.
The NT principle is that if we want treasure in heaven, we have to send it on in advance. What will the reward in heaven be for using our wealth generously? I don't know, but I suspect we will see the faces of those we have unknowingly helped. we will hear them, say I became a xian as a result of your gift, or my marriage was restored, or, I was healed. Not only will we see their faces, but we will see the face of Jesus. We get a foretaste of this now,which is why in giving generously it is not only the recipients who are blessed: we also are blessed. In fact it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
3. Generous giving brings blessing to God
Paul now turns from the commercial world of banking to the language of the Temple. He writes that such a mundane matter as a material gift is first of all v18 a fragrant offering. This language is borrowed from the old Testament offerings of incense in worship in the temple. It means literally the odour of a sweet smell. It's also the expression used for Christ's offering of himself for us on the cross (eph 5:2) speaks of something very beautiful, an act of great love. That’s what our giving is before God. (the perfume on his feet, the widows mite)
Secondly, generous giving is v18 ‘an acceptable sacrifice.’ Now we don’t bring sacrifices to God in order to appease him or earn his favour. No, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was ‘a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice.’ We cannot add to something which is already full perfect and sufficient. no, our sacrifice is a repsone, it’s about Thanksgiving and praise, and part of that should be a generosity in our giving. Sacrifices are not easy to give. There is a cost: it is hard to give; It goes against the grain, we go without something else when we give away and Yet again there is blessing here because it is an act which, more than anything else, liberates us from the hold money might otherwise have on our lives.
Thirdly, Paul says that generous giving is ‘pleasing to God.’ It is an extraordinary and wonderful assertion of the new Testament generally - and in particular of Paul in this passage - that what we do here can please God. If we give Generously, God is pleased.
We were praying this last wednesday for the plight of christians and other religious minorities in iraq and syria. sometimes we feel powerless in such complex situations but we can pray, we can put pressure on our government to respond with compassion and generosrity and we do can give. (CofE website)
Throughout the new Testament we're encouraged to give generously
1 co 16v2 giving should be planned and regular and proportionate to our income
‘on the first day of the week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income’.
Many Christians believe it is right to give a tenth of their income away to their church to those in need on the basis of matthew 23:23). I don;t know …These are guidelines, generosity is the only rule in the new testament. As we give generously, Paul says v19 ‘My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’
My God - see how personal God is. He’s our God. You can trust him. He will meet your needs. Many Christians who give, say, 10% of their income, have found the 90 % left more than covers what the hundred percent did before they started giving. God promises to meet all your needs. Which must include our material needs (though not necessarily all our material wants). Our needs will be met ‘according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’ Not merely from his wealth, but in a manner that befits his wealth. We cannot out give God.
which brings me to the last thing to say..
our generosity stems from god’s generosity to us. it is no coincidence that the book of philippians ends as it began with grace. That’s the theme of this letter. Grace is one of the most important words in the NT. It summarises the essence of Christianity. It describes all the riches of God’s freely given, undeserved love for us made possible through the sacrificial gift of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, God makes us his own, gifts us everything that is Jesus’ - eternal life, adoption, the security of his love. In Christ you are given more than you could ever have wanted and therfore out of that abundance of riches we are to generously give.