Giving gifts, money, and aid to people is a wonderful blessing. We exercise generosity, kindness, and faith when we give to others. The ability to receive those gifts is not so easy for some. But accepting charity from others is also an exercise of God’s Spirit in us. Applied gratitude, faith, humility, and grace bless others too. It is more difficult to accept gifts, even kindness from others. We are a people who have difficulty with the concept of getting without having to give in return. Grace is so simple and yet it is a concept so hard to grasp. The ability to both give and receive in grace is a mark of maturity and a manifestation of God within us. Does that mean we should go around bemoaning our neediness in order to get people to offer us gifts? Absolutely not! Where is our faith in God when we run around manipulating others into giving?
Paul was in prison, completely dependent on God for his needs. And God most often meets the needs of His children through His children. We, as a church love one another, edify one another, pray for one another and provide for one another. The church at Philippi had been faithful in sending him gifts throughout his missionary journeys, and now that he was in prison they remembered him again. Verses 10-13 read,
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Paul trusted the Lord to move the hearts of people to supply his needs. He didn’t send out letters to everyone and guilt them into giving to him. He did exhort them to give to others though and encouraged generosity. In his letters to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians Paul spoke about giving. He knew he had a right to ask for support for himself, but he chose to trust God, to let God be God and meet all his needs. And he had learned to be content regardless of his situation. When he had more than enough, he was content. He didn’t seek more. When he had nothing and had no idea how he would even find food he was content, he didn’t lament his conditions and seek more. Content means very simply pleased and satisfied. It is not only not needing more, but being happy and grateful.
Are we happy and grateful when the only meal we can afford is ramen? Are we happy and grateful when we can choose between the lobster and the T-bone? God provided both those meals. It isn’t easy to be content in either situation but with Jesus it is possible. As we learn to trust Him and be satisfied whatever our lot, He strengthens us, His Spirit makes us more like Him.
Verses 17-20 read,
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul wasn’t asking for money, but he did want the church to grow in Christ. Giving to others, especially when we must sacrifice to do so increases the Spirit in us. And that increases our treasure in Heaven. God doesn’t keep a record of our wrongs, but He does reward our good work. Our charity on earth builds our treasure in Heaven. Our good works can’t save us, there is no amount of goodness that can pay our debt to God. Jesus paid the price for us with His blood. But giving and receiving gracefully are acts that demonstrate the Gospel to the world. In Acts 20:32-35 Paul said a tearful farewell to the church in Ephesus.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
We should look for ways to help the poor and the weak. We should seek out opportunities to give. But when the time comes, we have to let others be blessed by giving to us as well. Paul ends his letter to the Philippians with verse 23.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Consider grace. Exercise grace in every facet of your interactions with people. Be graceful as Jesus is graceful. We benefited from His grace and so should all the people we come into contact with. Forgive, give, accept, and live with grace. Expect nothing in return and trust that God is God and He will meet our every need.