Philippian Generosity Should Be Our Guide

Philippians 4:10-20

by
Lawson Mayo

In Philippians 4:10-20, we see generosity in its highest form. Paul the proclaimer is imprisoned in Rome. The brethren at Philippi have rallied to his aid. On their behalf, Epaphroditus has made a sacrificial journey to minister to his needs. And rightly so! Paul established the church in Philippi. He brought Christ into their lives. He was their father in the faith. Their attachment was fervent; their affection was natural; their love was pure. Because of this, Paul’s heart was filled with joy. To him, their gift was a blessing from God. Even though Paul had learned to be content in every situation, he was grateful for their timely generosity. Even though his heart was self-sufficed, he was deeply moved by their unfaltering love.

The Philippians were a charitable people. They were co-labourers with Paul. They were staunch supporters. They were faithful encouragers. They were his joy and his crown (4:10). They had followed Paul with their bounty when no one else seemed to care (4:15). They had helped him when he left Macedonia. They had helped him in Thessalonica. Now they were helping him in Rome. Willingly, they gave. Gratefully, he received. In verse 15 of our text Paul points to the fact that no one except the brethren in Philippi had communicated with him concerning giving and receiving. Their repeated kindnesses had deepened his gratitude. But, more than that, their generosity was an indicator of their spiritual growth! This, within itself, was a tremendous comfort to Paul. His converts had taken on the mind of Christ. Their good work would not go unnoticed by God. Paul could never repay them, but in due season, they would reap a great reward for their hearty generosity.

When we give as we should, it shall he given unto us. Yea! God will open the windows of heaven and pour out more blessings than we can receive. For a proof text, read Malachi 3:10. When we fail to give as we should, we not only rob God, we rob ourselves. But the gifts of a generous person will be recompensed with abundant blessings from God. When invested wisely, our money will give a rich return. So will our time and our talents. The spiritual blessings we receive, in exchange for the deeds that we do, can not be numbered. “It’s strange, but very true; giving just enriches you!”

It has been said that there are three types of giving: Grudge giving; Duty giving; Thanks giving. Grudge giving says, “I hate to.” Duty giving says, “I ought to.” Thanks giving says, “I want to.” The first comes from constraint, the second from a sense of obligation, and the third from a full heart. Nothing much is conveyed in grudge giving, since the gift without the giver is bare. Something more happens in duty giving, but there is no song in it. Thanks giving, on the other hand, is an open gate to the love of God. To quote from someone else, “If he has the spirit of true generosity, a pauper can give like a prince.” Does not the widow’s mite serve to illustrate this?

Two mites, two drops (yet all her house and land),

Falls from a steady heart, though trembling hand;

The other’s wanton wealth foams high and brave,

                                   The other’s cast away, she only gave.

                                                                                       --Richard Crenshaw

 “By the gates of the treasury still He sits, and watches the gifts we bring. He measures the gold that we give to Him by the gold to which we cling” (Wellman).

It has been said,  “When the heart is converted, the purse will be inverted.'” What a truism! When God is Lord of our 1ives, we wil1 cheerfully and liberally give! God’s Holy People of  old gave cheerfully and liberally. Remember the story of the Israelites; how they were  restrained from giving, because “the stuff they had” was sufficient for building the tabernacle. Yet they kept on giving. There was so much excess gold and silver and bronze and cloth; oils and spices and precious stones that the workers had to leave their task, to ask Moses to solve the problem. Talk about generosity! Theirs was overwhelming!  They gave so much that Moses had to say, “Stop giving!” Think of what we could do if we were as generous as the Israelites! We could build buildings.  We could support ministers. We could clothe the poor. We could feed the hungry.  We could do all this and more, without asking others to help.

Think of what we could accomplish if we were as generous as our early day brethren. Remember the first century Christians, how they sold their possessions and goods, and shared  with those in need (Acts 2:45)? Remember the Macedonians, how they gave out of their own deep poverty to help those in Judea (II Corinthians 8:1-2)? When have we seen such generosity in our age? When has the “abundance of our deep poverty abounded unto the reaches of our liberality”? How could these early day brethren joyfully give so such when they were so poor? Well, according to Scripture, our Macedonian brethren first gave themselves. Could this be the key to God-approved giving? Could self-giving be a potent factor in the matter of one's benevolence; of one's service; of one’s generosity? Do we not understand the essentiality of commitment? Is this why our treasuries are so weak? Is this why we accomplish so little? Paul’s commitment served as a guide for the Philippians. In return, the Philippians can serve as a guide for us.

Eternity with God carries a high price which Paul was willing to pay. Read II Corinthians 11:21-28. His life was not easy. The story is there. Total commitment. Self-denial. In prisons oft. In sufferings much. Of the Jews, five times received he forty stripes save one. Thrice was he beaten with rods. Once was he stoned. Thrice he suffered shipwreck, a night and a day spent in the deep. Perils of robbers. Perils by his countrymen. Perils by the heathen. Perils among false brethren. Perils in the city. Perils in the wilderness. Perils in the sea. Naked and cold. Thirsty and hungry. In weariness and pain. All of this, yet he was content. He found joy in the provisions that were offered by those he loved.

Paul was a man of contentment; a man of joy. He was also a man of commitment; a man of knowledge; a man of wisdom! Where he leads, we should follow. When he speaks, we should listen. That’s what the Philippians did. What they heard, they heeded; what they saw, they sowed. They took their cues well. Do you think the jailer needed  a lesson on commitment after he had seen Paul and Silas assisted by God? Remember, he is a part of the Philippian church. Commitment with contentment: that should be our motto, that should be our aim, that should be our goal. We sing, “All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give,” but do we mean the words? If so, we’re getting there! When grudge giving and duty giving turn to thanks giving, commitment will take on a new dimension. Duty will become desire. Generosity will surface. We will give liberally, joyfully, and purposefully.

What we sow, we shall reap. “He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully, he that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.” This is a biblical principle (II Corinthians 9:6). “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7). I have a friend in the States who under- stands the joy of cheerful giving. As a Catholic, he grudgingly gave fifty cents every Sunday. After becoming a Christian, however, he wept because he could only give fifty dollars. Literally wept! Now that’s what I call cheerful giving!  Have you ever wept because you couldn’t give more to the Lord? We are to give cheerfully, not grudgingly or of necessity. While on the subject, let me remind you of something else. Our giving should be planned.  We aren’t to give haphazardly. No! Again listen to Paul. Writing to the Corinthians he said, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give.”

Our oldest son is named after an elder in the church who knew the meaning of purposed giving. When applying for a small business loan, he not only included enough to meet his family’s needs, he also included enough to cover his weekly contribution for a certain period of time. When the banker reviewed the application, he said, “Bruce, what’s this?” Bruce replied. “That ‘s my weekly contribution; I don’t expect the Lord to pay for my venture, I need to borrow the money for my regular offering as well as money to eat during this time.” Tell me, brethren, who among us has ever borrowed to give to the Lord?

The Philippians purposed in their hearts to send funds to Paul (Philippians 4:18). He was not dependent on their money; neither was he seeking it. Yet he rejoiced in the funds they sent, Their generosity strengthened him. It kept him from feeling forsaken. Ready to preach. Ready to teach. Ready to suffer. Ready to die. But not ready to be forsaken! This was Paul! God doesn’t forget his servants. Paul knew this, but it was good to be reassured. This unsolicited contribution was proof of God's care. “Money is never more wisely employed than in forwarding the cause of Christ.” But, what besides money, can one give in service to God? Well, the Philippians gave Epaphroditus, and what a gift he was! Paul describes him as a brother, fellowsoldier, companion in his labour; one who ministered to his wants (Philippians 2:25). Could we possibly send an Epaphroditus to someone? Yes! Yes, we could, if we would just let the Philippians be our guide.

How good it is to have a co-worker! I used to think that no church should have two ministers until every church had one, but since working in Australia, I’ve decided that no one should ever work alone. The power of God’s Word is great, but man needs a workmate to strengthen and encourage him as he takes the gospel to the world. Why did Christ send the seventy out two by two (Luke 10:1)? For strength and encouragement! We read in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall  the one will lift up his fellow, but  woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to lift him up.” Christ chose a team of twelve to labour with Him. Be that as it may, it was good for Paul to have one man by his side. Epaphroditus provided a great service by simply being there, an encourager to Paul.

Encouragement is a heavenly gift that we can freely give. No doubt, the Philippians sent huge amounts of encouragement to Paul via Epaphroditus: messages from all of his friends, well wishes from his brothers in the faith. I know the value of such. Without encouragement from friends and brethren, it would be difficult to be so far from home. I have a friend in New England who frequently writes notes of encouragement. In them, he talks of those I know and love so well. He brings me up to date on church happenings, and offers words of encouragement to spur me on. Little does he know what a great service he is doing with his pen.

For many years, I received a cheque from another friend who served as the treasurer of a small congregation in the States. With every cheque, came a handwritten note. Some were long, some were short, but the effect was always the same. He cared enough to write. He could have easily sent the money without the message, but he took time to write. The money was quickly spent, but the messages are still in my mind.

Encouragement serves as an incentive. It motivates. It inspires. Like adrenalin, it provides strength. So be an encourager! When you stand behind someone, pat them on the back. Say something positive. Lift them up. Spur them on. Be an encourager in word and deed. Tell others what they mean to you and how they’ve influenced your life. Offer a little of yourself in a way that will provide lasting support. Give a legacy that will linger on.

Love is another special gift that one can freely give. In Paul’s case, love was perhaps the greatest gift the church in Philippi could have offered. Their love reflected the love of God. It showed divine love, divine care, divine concern. Through them, God brought comfort and peace to this mighty man of God. Somewhere in Europe there is a statue of Christ that illustrates how God uses us to do his bidding. During World War II, an explosion mutilated the statue, leaving Christ with His hands blown off. To this day, the statue has not been restored. Christ stands there yet with His hands still missing. Underneath the statue, however, a sign has been erected which simply reads: “Christ has no hands but yours.” The Lord had no hands but those of the Philippians to assist Paul; no hands but theirs to convey his love, no hands but theirs to comfort and encourage. Today, He has no hands but ours to do his work; no hands but ours to meet the needs of others; no hands but ours to support preachers like Paul.

Preachers need love. They need comfort. They need encouragement. Also, like Paul, they need money. Contrary to what some may think, it is not wrong for a mission congregation to use its collections to help meet their preacher’s needs. Brethren, I firmly believe that more congregations could be self-supporting if they were truly generous with their giving. Ten families giving ten percent of their income could fully support a minister. Twenty families giving ten percent could not only support a full time minister, they could buy their own meeting place. Thirty families giving ten percent could not only support a full time man and provide their own meeting place, they could also put a missionary in the field. Brethren, we should not let others do for us when we are unwilling to do for ourselves! Remember, just ten families giving ten percent is all we need!

Wait a minute, Mayo! Are you saying that we should give ten percent of our total income (husband’s and wife’s) to the church? Are you preaching tithing? No, I’m not preaching tithing. I’m preaching giving, generous giving. Under the Old Law, God’s people were required to tithe; but we live under a better Law. We have a better hope, a better promise, a better mediator. Shouldn’t we be better givers? Here we are in the twenty-first century, living in an affluent world, thinking more of ourselves than we do of taking the gospel to all the world. Brethren, we haven’t even gotten out of Jerusalem! At the rate we’re going, we’ll never reach Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth! What’s the solution? Generosity! With each family giving at least ten percent, think of what we could do!

I don’t know about your congregation, but our little group is a generous giving congregation. We are not self-supporting, but we’re working at it! Even though most of my salary comes from the States, a generous portion comes from Eastside. In addition, we assist other Australian works. This past year we have met medical needs, transportation needs, student needs, mission needs, and a host of other things. We don’t abound in wealth. We’re just an ordinary congregation striving to use what we have for the Lord. We aren’t pace setters. We’re just following our guide. Generous giving; that’s what we’re talking about. Without such we are of little worth to God.

Even though Philippians is a personal letter written by Paul to a select group of beloved brethren nearly two thousand years ago, it carries applicable themes for us today. Humility. Self-denial. Unity. Christian living.  Generosity.  Joy. Christ Himself was an example of these attributes. He showed humility when he laid aside his rights to heaven to walk upon the face of the earth. He showed self-sacrifice when he suffered and died that we might live. He prayed for unity when he knelt in the garden of Gethsemane. He set Christianity into motion when he ascended into heaven. Freely He has given. Joyfully we have received. Generation after generation, faithful guides have led the way. Christ guided Paul. Paul guided the Philippians. Now, we must allow the Philippians to guide us.

If there is to be any virtue, if there is to be any praise, we must follow their lead. As they did, we must do. As they served, we must serve.  As they gave, we must give.

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