Summary: More blessed to give than receive, God is well pleased with generosity, as we give God supplies our need.
Philippians 4:14-23 Cornhill morning devotion, 9/12/03
Do you sing in the shower?
The other day I was listening to Radio 4 and I heard a man talking about his parrot. Well every morning this man would sing in his shower and the parrot was so talented it had learned to imitate all of the songs he sang.
I was in the shower this morning at 5.30am and I wasn’t singing.
No, I was worrying.
Worrying about getting this talk done, my gobbet done, whether my bank account will survive the onslaught of Christmas, whether my health is OK.
But then the LORD reminded me of the key verse I am to speak on today, verse 19: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
James reminded us last week that we should not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (v6).
The next day Rolly invited us to focus on whatever is true… honourable… just… pure… lovely… commendable… excellent… [and] worthy of praise (v8).
And yesterday Luciano reminded us to be content in any and every circumstance (v12) because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (v13).
Arni showed us that one of the major themes of Philippians is confidence: Paul has a complete lack of confidence in the flesh (3:3) but has 100% confidence in the righteousness of God that depends on faith (3:9). In this last chapter, Paul has shown how his confidence works itself out in Christian unity (verses 1-3), Christian joy, temperance and peace (vv 4-7) and Christian strength (v13). In verses 7 and 12, we are given the outcome of this confidence in God: contentment. Philippians is a portrait of a man who has abandoned all self-reliance to throw his weight entirely upon his Lord, and the result of this is great peace. A Christian who is confident in Christ, is a Christian who is contented in his life.
But a Christian who is contented is one who is not covetous, and is thereby one who is extremely generous, just as God gives to all liberally and without reproach (James 1:5). 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
So as we finish this lovely little book, my three points today are all about generosity.
1. It is more blessed to give than receive- Acts 20:25
Verse 14, however, throws up a big surprise. This contented apostle, rejoicing in his chains, can still talk about my trouble, or in my version, my distress. And what is his distress regarding? The fact that he doesn’t have a TV or continental quilt in his cell? No, we already know that he has learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (12). He says in v17 that he does not seek the gift, but rather the fruit that increases to your credit. In the Greek, the word for ‘credit’ is actually logos, which we all know means ‘word’, and is the title given to Christ Himself. They are bearing fruit for Christ. Perhaps they would know the words of Jesus when he said, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). So we see that in the transaction of giving and receiving, the real benefit is to the giver, as give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap (Luke 6:38). I’ve been challenged by my girlfriend recently who, because she won’t see any of her family over Christmas, has decided to take herself off to do homeless work that day. I wonder whether any of us would be truly contented this Christmas if we spent the entire day giving to others and received very little in return. It is more blessed to give than receive. How is this so? (second point)
2. God is well pleased with generosity, and His pleasure should be our motive
2 Corinthians 9:7 teaches us that God loves a cheerful giver, and here we see that He finds these gifts a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God (18). Paul is far more interested in God’s reactions to the Philippians and their gift, than he is in the gift itself. It’s not a big deal to him- the main thing that makes him rejoice (v10) is the development of their godly character through generosity. I wonder, when we are wrapping Christmas presents and writing cards, are we doing it as a chore, because we want to keep up appearances and sustain our public image as a good bloke? I imagine that 99% of the presents I’ve given in my life were because I wanted to the recipient to like me more, think highly of me and preferably give me something more expensive in return! But Paul eliminates both the giver and even the receiver as the chief motive in generosity: what really counts is that every single card we write, present we wrap, carol we sing and food we distribute…they should all be a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God Himself. On Christmas Day, before we get started with our own presents, or even in sharing with others, let’s give our first sacrifice of praise to the Lord, who came into this world as a baby, simply to die in our place. God is well pleased with generosity. Final point…