Paul Gives Thanks
10The Lord has made me very grateful that at last you have thought about me once again. Actually, you were thinking about me all along, but you didn't have any chance to show it. 11I am not complaining about having too little. I have learned to be satisfied with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. 13Christ gives me the strength to face anything.
14It was good of you to help me when I was having such a hard time. 15 My friends at Philippi, you remember what it was like when I started preaching the good news in Macedonia. After I left there, you were the only church that became my partner by giving blessings and by receiving them in return. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica, you helped me more than once. 17I am not trying to get something from you, but I want you to receive the blessings that come from giving.
18 I have been paid back everything, and with interest. I am completely satisfied with the gifts you sent with Epaphroditus. They are like a sweet-smelling offering or like the right kind of sacrifice that pleases God. 19I pray that God will take care of all your needs with the wonderful blessings that come from Christ Jesus! 20May God our Father be praised forever and ever. Amen.
21Give my greetings to all who are God's people because of Christ Jesus.
The Lord's followers here with me send you their greetings.
22All of God's people send their greetings, especially those in the service of the Emperor.
23I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless your life!
While making money is an unapologetic obsession for many and the need for it is universal, giving and receiving money can be hugely sensitive. Despite the warmth of his relationship with the Philippians, Paul leaves this tricky subject until his conclusion.
His comments are a lesson not only in godly attitude to finance but also in pastoral diplomacy and care. The church has been repeatedly generous to him, both in his missionary travels and in his confinement. He has referred to their gospel partnership already (1:5), which includes prayer, encouragement and evangelism, and now he refers to the role of Epaphroditus in bringing money (v 18). For all of this, Paul pens his profound appreciation.
Yet there are dangers in offering effusive thanks. It may look as though he is requesting more. Moreover, he does not want to become trapped in a sense of obligation and debt. Patronage in the Greco-Roman world would tie a person to those who pay him, but Paul needs the freedom to serve widely. Further, he differs from preachers who peddle ideas for financial gain. His declared principle has always been to refuse personal gifts, lest the gospel appear to be purchased. So alongside expressing gratitude and contentment, he declares that their gifts constitute investments in a divine bank account. Their sacrifice has brought God great delight, and they will be able to count on Christ’s generous provision in their need, just as Paul is doing.
In these days of financial crisis, when families and Christian agencies struggle to make ends meet, partnership and generosity present real challenges. We may be tempted to manipulate for funds.
There is certainly pastoral heartache in making difficult choices concerning need. Yet being thrown in dependence on our all-sufficient God may teach us deeper habits of contentment and trust from which our wealth and security may have barred us.
First used in Encounter with God July-Sept & Oct-Dec 2014, written by Fiona Barnard, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.
Father, we need your wisdom in all our handling of money. Guide us in how we use what we have, what causes we should give to. If we’re involved in raising money, show us how to do that in a godly way. Teach us gratitude and contentment. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.