Summary: God provides for those with faith to partner in the work of the Gospel.
In his bestselling book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie explains that when he met a businessman for the first time, he asked which sign of the Zodiac he was born under. Almost none of the guys knew, so Carnegie would ask the day of his birth so he could tell the man. All of the Zodiac stuff was simply a ploy; Carnegie wanted the man’s birthday. Then, every year, he sent this business acquaintance a birthday card. Carnegie observes that the resulting good will was staggering, because (as he later learned), other than the immediate family, he was usually the only person who remembered the man’s birthday.
Paul’s experience was similar; his friends in Philippi were the only ones who partnered in his work. Unlike Carnegie, however, their interest was not a business gimmick; it was genuine care and concern. Their faith in God, combined with love for their pastor and commitment to missions, prompted them to give joyfully and generously to the work. Let’s read of their service and see how God would apply it to us.
[Read Philippians 4.14-23. Pray.]
People attending church sometimes feel nervous when we talk about their money. It is a very personal subject; plus, it seems so self-serving to ask you to give to the church when my salary depends completely on your generosity. In spite of the dangers, however, pastoral care requires that I teach on this subject. God insists that we carefully consider the connection between the hold we have on our wallets and the hold grace has on our souls. Jesus spoke about this often; Luke 16 records one of the more intriguing parables he told.
Jesus said, There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.”
And the manager said to himself, “What shall I do, since my master is taking my job away? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” So he decided on some “creative accounting” for those who owed money to his master. To the first one he said, “How much do you owe my master?”
The man responded, “A hundred [barrels] of oil.”
He said to him, “Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.”
Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?”
“A hundred [bushels] of wheat.”
He said to him, “Take your bill, and write eighty.”
That story does not seem to fit in the Bible! But wait until you hear Jesus’ moral: “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness….” Then Jesus applies the parable to us: “I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches…? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
There is an old saying, “If you throw a rock at a pack of dogs, how do you tell which one you hit? The one who yelps.” That story hit the Pharisees hard, for right after Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money,” Luke records what happened: “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed Jesus.”
Whatever conclusions we reach about interpreting this story, Jesus clearly commends to us shrewdness in handling wealth. We are not to love money in this life, nor can we take it with us to the next. So the faithful Christian uses money here and now to purchase that which is valuable in the life to come. The Philippians did just that. They did not love money, so they invested it in the kingdom. These folks were not wealthy. So my question is, Why did they give? Why risk doing without?
This text answers those questions. Every true believer feels the tension: the fantastic rewards for faithful giving urge us to radically generosity. But wise stewardship and care for the future calls us to save our money. How much do we keep, and how much do we give? To begin to answer that, first notice…
1. We Give Generously, Knowing We Partner in God’s Work (Philippians 4.14-16)