Winston Churchill use to love to tell the story about the family
who were having a picnic by the lake, and the little boy fell into the
water by accident. The family did not see it, but a stranger passing
by saw the boy slip under the water, and fully clothed, he leaped into
the lake and rescued the little guy from drowning. He presented the
boy to his mother alive and well. Instead of thanking the stranger
for his heroic effort, she snapped, "Where is his cap?"
Some people have the neurotic ability to be discontent in
whatever state they are. No matter how much there is to be grateful
for, they have an eagle eye that can spot that hidden detrimental
detail that others overlook. Such eagle eyed, or should we say, evil
eyed, people are what we call neurotic. All of us pass through this
valley from time to time, and we feel a negativism that says, I just
don't like reality as it is. Karen Horney says, the psychotic is one
who says two plus two equals five. They are out of touch with
reality. The neurotic says, two plus two equals four, but I don't like
it. The neurotic is in touch with reality, but it is reality that they
Paul is far removed from this category, for he goes so far as to
say, even if reality is not to his liking; even if it falls short of basic
expectations, he has the ability to be content. Let's face it, there are
few Christians who can boast such a well-balanced personality.
Paul was not always this way himself. In his B. C. days, before
being converted by the Savior, he was a malcontent if there ever was
one. He was ranting and raving about reality, and by anger and
force he was trying to change reality to his liking. He was
determined to sink the Christian ship, and restore reality to its
previous stability. He could not be content until he had external
circumstances in the shape he considered ideal. That is why he was
arresting Christians, and even killing some.
Now, he says that in Christ he has the power to do everything.
That is, he can be content whether he lives in poverty, or in plenty.
The external circumstances are no longer the determining factor in
his contentment. Now he has a sense of peace and security in Christ
that enables him to disregard the externals. He does not have to
change reality to be content, for the reality of what he has in Christ
can never change, and that unchanging rock is the foundation on
which he builds his house of contentment.
The fascinating thing we note about Paul here is that he does not
become a Stoic. The Stoics taught that man should learn to be
content whatever the external circumstance, be they good or bad.
But they went one step further and said that man should free himself
from the emotions that go with good and bad circumstances. They
said you should not feel joy or grief, but be indifferent to pleasure or
pain, and keep your feelings on a dead level plateau regardless if you
are at a wedding or a funeral. The Stoics were indifferent to
This is not what Paul is about at all, and not what Christians are
to be, for it is not Christlike to be unfeeling. Paul could, like his
Lord, weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.
And in this very text that highlights his contentment he reveals just
how emotional he could be as he expresses himself concerning the
gift from his good friends in Philippi. Paul is so moved by their
generosity to him that he ends his letter to them with this fairly
lengthy thank you note exalting their gift, and giving spirit. Even
calls their gifts a fragrant offering, and acceptable sacrifice pleasing
For a man content to go without, he sure goes wild with praise
when he gets to go with. There is no Stoic indifference to feelings in
Paul. He lets them all hang out, and in so doing, teaches us some
powerful lessons in Christian giving. The first thing we see here is
the importance of-
I. THE RENEWAL OF GIVING.
Notice how Paul is so delighted in verse 10 where he says, "At last
you have renewed your concern for me." The Greek word is
anathallow, and it means to flourish, or shoot up again. Paul has
gone through a winter of neglect, but now spring has sprung, and
they have renewed their giving to him. Vincent translates it, "Ye
cause your thinking on me to bloom anew..." Alford has it, "Ye
budded forth again in caring for my interests." The point is, out of
the dry branch of neglect came a blossoming of renewed concern,
and Paul was not indifferent to this fresh aroma of new life. He
says, not merely that I rejoice, but rather, "I rejoice greatly!" Paul
was elated by their renewed love.
Keep in mind that we are dealing here with Paul's favorite
church. These people in Philippi were very special to Paul. He
makes it a point to set them apart from all others by saying in verse
15 that they were the only church to support him in his early
ministry. They did not do it once, but again an again. They were his
primary source of support, and they gave Paul more joy than any
other church. But the point is, even they let their support lapse.
Even the best Christian givers need to be reminded of the needs and
their opportunity to meet those needs, or they can neglect their
giving. It is a sad reality that a man of Paul's caliber could be
starting churches all over the world, and the established churches
not caring enough to support him. Many a faith missionary has
been abandoned by churches who support them at first, but then
lose interest and stop sending their gifts.
Paul is not complaining, but you can easily read between the
lines, and sense that Paul wonders how it can be that Christians do
not give to support the expansion of God's kingdom. He bends over
backwards not to be the least critical, but his language does convey
the message, it is about time. The truth is inescapable, Christians
are not computers that you program to give regularly, and then they
just do it automatically. They are people who are subject to mood
swings, and a host of things to keep them busy and demands greater
than their time and strength. They can easily be led by
circumstance to neglect even those things most near to them if they
are not reminded.
These people were Paul's best friends, and yet they just left him
hanging uncertain of whether he would receive their support or not.
We do not know how long they left him hanging, but his words
convey the idea that it was too long. But now they have responded
again, and we see why giving is so needed and precious. It
stimulated praise to God, and a heart of thankfulness in Paul. It was
such a source of encouragement, and encouragement is a major
ministry in the Christian life. Giving is one of the key ways to
produce encouragement. Givers create grateful hearts, and the
world can never have too many grateful hearts.
All that we have to be grateful for is because God gave His Son,
and our gratitude to God is rekindled when we see the by product of
His giving in the giving of His children.
Say not, my soul, from whence
Can God relieve my care?
Remember that Omnipotence
Has servants everywhere.
And these servants serve by giving. And they need to be reminded
to renew their gifts for their own sake as well as the kingdoms sake.
All of us have in our power the ability to make glad the servants of
God by renewing our support just as the Philippians did for Paul.
Next let's look at-
II. THE REASONS FOR GIVING.
In this thank you note Paul states three reasons why the
Philippians gave to him.
1. v. 10 to show their concern for Paul.
2. v. 14 to share in his troubles.
3. v. 16 to meet his need.
Money is a means for meeting other people's needs, and, thereby,
expressing your love for them. Paul saw their gifts as investments in
his ministry. They set him free from the need to make tents for a
living so he could give his time for building the church by preaching
and teaching. In chapter one v. 5 he thanks them for their
partnership in the Gospel. Giving is a way we can all get in on the
doing what we cannot do ourselves. If you set another free to do it
by giving him the money so he can devote his gifts to his special
calling, then you are a part of that calling and ministry. We would
be speaking accurately if we said, Paul and the Philippians were
The point of this is, that we might see the only valid reason for
Christian giving is because we care about the people and the
ministries we give too. Paul was so grateful that they cared. There
was no law that said they had to give. Nobody was forcing them to
give. Paul never begged them for gifts. The whole beautiful picture
of giving here is giving that is free-willed giving. There are three
basic kinds of giving we want to look at.
1. Forced giving: This is what you had under the law. It was like
our taxes. There was no choice, for you had to do it, like it or not.
2. Formal giving: This is giving according to a formula. The most
common being the tithe. This is the pattern laid down as the
standard, and you conform to it by giving a tenth of your income.
Billions of stewardship sermons focus on the amount. The stress is
on the formula of tithing. This is the most universal formula
promoted. It probably brings in more money for religious causes
than any other fund raising method.
3. Free willed giving: This is giving that is not determined by
external authority, but by ones own inner conviction as to how he or
she will share in meeting the needs of others, and, thereby, express
their love. This is harder to control, and is not the favorite of any
established organization. Organizations prefer the other two, for
they are subject to better regulation and calculation.
Nevertheless, this is the predominant kind of giving we see in the
New Testament. I have been tithing since I was a teenager, and I
joined the majority of preachers and scholars who say the church
would never have any financial problems if every Christian tithed.
But the fact is, that is not the most satisfying kind of giving. It has
the taste of legalism in it. The real joy of giving is the giving you do
that you do not have to do, and do not feel obligated to do. The
giving that you freely chose to do because, like the Philippians, you
care. You give to meet needs and solve problems, and be a partner
in doing things you can never do on your own. This is fun giving,
and this is the kind of giving that is also fun to receive.
I never write a thank you for my check, but I do for gifts that I
receive. Paul is not receiving his check here from the Philippians. It
is a gift, and a free will gift. They did not have to give it, and nobody
ever asked for it. They just gave it because they cared, and Paul is so
delighted they did. You only feel this kind of joy for free willed gifts,
and not for money that you earned. I can't imagine any of you
writing a note like this to your employer after you received your pay
envelope. You would, however, if he suddenly decided to throw in a
two week vacation to Hawaii with all expenses paid.
Grace giving inspires gratitude like no other kind of giving, and
that is why it is the most Christian kind of giving. It is because it is
most Christ like. He gave His all out of love. He labored to heal,
teach, and deliver people from sin, disease, and ignorance, because
He loved them. He had compassion, and He wanted to meet their
needs. That is Christ like giving.
The Pharisees were great tithers, but they missed the best kind of
giving, which is the free willed giving of care and love. They missed
it because they were such legalists that love could not squeeze in.
They gave because it was the law; it was their duty; it was an
obligation, and the right thing to do. That kind of giving gets the job
done, and it is better than no giving at all, but it is a far cry from
Christ like giving. The best reason to give is because you want to,
and because you love to help meet the needs of others.
Ideal giving in both the Old Testament and New Testament is free
will giving. When God wanted the Tabernacle built He told Moses
to do some fund raising. Listen to the method God laid down in Ex.
25:2: "Tell the Israelites to me an offering. You are to receive the
offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give."
Nobody was compelled. It was to be a gift they wanted to give from
their heart. It was to be seen as an opportunity an not an obligation.
In the New Testament Paul makes it clear this is still the kind of
giving that most pleases God. In II Cor. 9:7 he writes, "Each man
should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly
or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
Paul, as a former Pharisee, had his fill of forced giving by rules
and regulations. He wanted Christians to give because they wanted
to give, and could have pleasure in giving. That is the giving God
loves to see, and that should be the giving all Christian prefer. The
temptation is ever present to conform to the world, and use high
pressure fund raising techniques. This has been a problem in the
church all through history, and has done a great deal of harm to the
credibility of the church. The church has often promote gambling as
a means of fund raising, and developed the belief that the end
justifies the means. This leads to this kind of thinking: If you are
doing God's work and doing good things, then whatever works is
right. If you can manipulate people by guilt, fear, peer pressure, or
pride, to give more money, than, by all means, do so. Who cares
how the money is made, or where it comes from, or the motive for
which it is given? The bottom line is the quantity that comes in.
We can point the finger at some who are more notorious than
others in applying this principle, but the fact is, few denominations
escape this temptation because it works. And in a utilitarian society,
where this is the main question, does it work? It is hard for
Christians not to conform. But that it works is not the Christian
question. The Christian question is, is it biblical? Is it Christ like?
Would Jesus use this method, or would Paul? Jesus seems to have
neglected His chance to make a killing at His great rallies. Crowds
of thousands were fed; marvelous miracles of healing took place,
and as far as the record shows, He forgot to take the offering. Jesus
depended on the free will gifts of people to support His ministry. He
did not even take advantage of what all us would feel was legitimate.
He could have passed a basket, and long with collecting the crumbs,
He could have taken a free will offering. But Jesus did not even do
Jesus talked a great deal about money, but He did not take
offerings. Any money Jesus received was freely given. Paul took
offerings, but he did not demand them. What pressure he put on the
churches was for gifts to help others. He did not solicit funds for
himself and his own support. Support came because people, like the
Philippians, cared, and they wanted to share in his labor. My point
in all this is, neither the urgency of the need, nor the merit of the
work can justify playing with people's minds. It is neither Christ
like nor Pauline to get people to give by force, or by mind
manipulation. Christian giving is chosen giving. It is from the
heart, and cheerfully given. All other giving is sub-Christian.
This means that many Christians give on this lower level, but, as
we said, this is better than not giving at all. The ideal, however, is
still free-willed giving, and that should be the goal we aim for in
Christian stewardship. We should always give because we care, and
because we want to be partners in doing what meets needs. The
gimicry of giving we see in the church today is simply the church
riding piggy back on the methods of the world. Send us money and
God will bless you, and double your income. Buy our religious
paraphernalia, and you will be blest. This is nothing but
superstition with a Christian label.
It is true that Paul says the gift of the Philippians will be credited
to their account, and that they will reap as they have sown, and be
blessed because of their generous giving. But these things were not
the motive for their giving, nor did Paul promote them. Their gifts
were given because they cared, and any reward they got in return
was a fringe benefit, and not the cause of their giving. Those who
give to get are not giving at all. They are merely entering into a loan
arrangement with the Lord. They expect the loan paid back with
interest, and usually very high interest.
This give to God and double your money is a very popular game,
and it seems to go over quite well with many Christians. It is too
bad it didn't develop in time for the Apostles to get in on it. Peter
left a good fishing business to follow the Lord, but he never seemed
to get rich. In fact, he said to the lame man in Acts 3, "Silver and
gold have I none." Peter had more going for him as a fisherman
than he did as an Apostle when it came to his bank account. Paul
had to learn to be content when he was in want and hungry because
he actually had to live on that level. Somehow the health and wealth
Gospel did not seem to work for these special chosen men of God,
but, no matter, Christians by the millions swallow it today, and give
their money with the same motive as people do who gamble in order
to get. The basic motive is greed, and not a love that seeks to meet a
need. Do I give out of the pure Christian motive of love? Of course not.
I give for tax breaks, I give for recognition. I give in hopes of
reward. I give out of peer pressure. I give out of guilt. I have
probably given for every sub-Christian motive that ever got on a list
of sub-Christian motives. I am not embarrassed to admit this
because I know sub-Christian motives are universal among
Christians. If they were not, false methods of fund raising would not
work so well among Christians. We all give for a lot of reasons that
are far from the ideal, but the ideal is still the goal for which we aim.
Paul was ever pressing on to be all that Christ wanted him to be,
and so ought we to be so pressing on.
The story is told of a man who entered a drug store one Sunday
morning and asked for change for a dollar. The clerk handed the
man his four quarters and said, "There you are; I hope you enjoy
the sermon." The fact is, the sermon may have been only worth a
quarter, but the Christian is not to give on the basis of what he gets
in return. That is not giving, that is buying. A Christian is to give
because he cares, and he wants to be a partner in supporting others
who care. Forced giving says I have to. Formal giving says I ought
to. Free giving says I want to.
If we can't give on this highest level, let us not cease to give, for
God brings much good out of sub-ideal giving. But let us ever aim
for the highest, for a giving heart that cares and wants to share in
meeting the enormous needs of a lost world. Every ministry that
ever was, and ever will be till Christ comes again, depends upon
givers. Not all Christians can go, but all Christians can give that
others might go to fulfill the great commission.
How much should you give? If it is a free gift you want to give,
then that has to be up to you. You cannot command what is freely
chosen. The Bible does tell us what God's ideal is. He wants us to
give in proportion to what we have received. If we have had a hard
time making ends meet because of low income, that will be a factor
in our giving. It we have been blest with over flowing abundance,
that will lead to more abundant sharing. This is both an Old
Testament an New Testament principle. In Deut. 16-17 we read that
every man in Israel was to come before God with an offering, and
God says, "No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed.
Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord
your God has blessed you." In I Cor. 16:2 Paul writes, "On the first
day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money
in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no
collection will have to be made." The ideal, then, is to give in
proportion to what you have received. Let us follow this rule, and
be givers by choice.