Philippians 4:14-19 (NKJV)
14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.
15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.
16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, pauses after speaking about learning to be content in all things (one of my favorite passages), to thank the church at Philippi for supporting him in his missionary journeys, not only when he was present but also when he was traveling. As we approach Thanksgiving (US), reading this and comparing it with present day communication regarding “giving AND receiving” reminds me that how something is received can be AS important as how it is given.
The Practicality of Giving
“…you shared in my distress…you sent aid for my necessities…” Paul speaks about gifts he received from the church at Philippi after speaking regarding how he has learned to be content, even in any state of lack. Ultimately, he was going to continue to do ministry regardless of what he did or did not have; at the same time, he’s not ignoring that the gifts he received from this particular church directly helped him in his efforts to spread the gospel. Apparently, the Philippians cared enough to support him through gifts that addressed his physical needs. Simultaneously, Paul was concerned about giving to them in support their spiritual growth and well-being while desiring and speaking blessings of prosperity into their lives.
The Art of Receiving
When given a compliment, a word of honor, a gift, or anything else, I’ve seen many Christians downplay, redirect, or religiously refuse what is given to them. In contrast, Paul recognized that although he was not entitled to the gifts he was given, he was considered worthy of them, had received (and not returned) them, and had not forgotten to express his gratitude. As a minister, Paul also did something that he, especially, was great at doing: he reinforced not only good behavior, but, also, good and godly motives and intentions. Statements like “Nevertheless you have done well…”, “no church shared with me…but you only”, and “…, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” went beyond a simple “thank you” and reminded them that both he AND God were pleased with their giving.
The Giver’s Obligation Should Not Negate the Receiver’s Appreciation
Even worse than refusing gifts, some Christians almost ignore the gesture as simply “what is supposed to happen.” I.e. we are supposed to serve without looking for a gift in obedience to God, but if we receive something, it was supposed to be given to us through someone else’s obedience to God. True giving and receiving is NOT a contractual obligation performed like in most of our secular transactions (even in these appreciation can go a long way).
This is when I remember that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus did not sacrifice himself in obedience to the Father alone, but in his love for us by extension of the Father’s love for us. Consequently, we do not ignore his sacrifice, treating like an entitlement, but continue to give him praise. We don’t receive things because God gave us a buy-one-get-one coupon that we coldly give to others and that they (and God) are obligated to honor. It is always important to appreciate whatever we are given because we are not entitled to anything in life (except maybe death).
You Can’t Beat God Giving
Yea, it sounds cliche. I know I’ve heard it at times in the context of various “offering raising” efforts (smh). Regardless, it is true. Keep in mind that God does not, or at least not often (e.g. manna & quail in the wilderness), drop anything tangible out the sky to directly meet our needs. Yet Paul declares that “God shall supply all your need…” He recognizes that as the Philippians were being used by God to meet His needs, God was also going to provide for them. This should be a freeing realization for us; while it is impossible for us to out-give God and often improbable that we can out-give others that He puts in our lives give to us, we also are not obligated to try to do so.
It is at this point that I’d like to point out that “money” has not, until now, been mentioned in this post. Of course, In today’s culture, it is the principle means of addressing needs that we have. However, we should expand our gaze to see ALL the ways that God (often through the kindness of others) gives to us. As minstrels, we also must realize that as we give of ourselves that God has several ways of giving to us; both realities should be appreciated.
Deuteronomy 8:18 “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”