Poverty and need are not strong enough to rob you of joy unless you let them. As we look at this text, we will see that neither the joy of Paul nor the joy of the Philippians was dampened by their need and/or their poverty.
Now, in many ways, this passage has a lot
to say about contentment and also about how we
view money, giving, and what we have. So let me
say a few things about giving and the basic, foundational
biblical principles regarding money and
giving. It is always worthwhile to review them, and
we need to understand them before we can really
understand Paul’s message.
I. THE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES REGARDING
As you know, in the Old Testament, God’s
people were expected to give a tithe, which means
10 percent. Ten percent of their gross income was
to go to the Lord, and that 10 percent went specifically
to the Levitical priestly ministry to fund God’s
work. Now, on top of the 10 percent, God’s people
were to give additional gifts to the poor, the needy,
the widows, the orphans, and the strangers, and
when you totaled it up, the giving in the Old Testament
usually reached up to 25 percent or more.
In the New Testament, four principles for giving
are laid out in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. In these
chapters, Paul tells us that our giving is to be sacrificial,
regular, cheerful, and proportional. These are
A. Giving sacrificially. Ask yourself: Is my giving sacrificial? Does it cost me anything in the sense that I have to sacrifice something else in my life because I give back to God? Many of us are stuck here. Before we give, we want to make sure that we have everything we need and want. What are you willing to sacrifice for the Lord? Cable television? Eating out? An exotic vacation? The new car versus the older car?
B. Giving regularly. Regular giving means
not just once a year, not just every several months,
but on a regular basis—weekly or every other
week if that is how you are paid.
C. Giving cheerfully. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
D. Giving proportionally. Is your giving proportional to your income?
Every believer needs to apply those four foundational
principles to his or her own giving.
II. WHAT WE SHOULD TEACH
We do not teach prosperity theology; we preach stewardship. Prosperity theology essentially
teaches that if you just have enough faith and
if you give to God, then God will bless you with
material prosperity. This theology teaches that Jesus
wants you to have victory in the sense that
if you are just faithful enough toward Him, if you
just have enough faith, pray hard enough, and give
enough, then He will reward you with prosperity,
with the income you have always wanted, with the
car and the house and the vacations and whatever
else you want. This theology teaches that God is
a kind of a financial broker you invest with, and
if you invest enough financially with Him, He will
bless you financially in return.
What we teach here is stewardship. Stewardship
means that we use the money God entrusts
to us to advance His church and kingdom. God
wants our faithfulness in the little things. If we
can’t be faithful with the little He gives us, He is
certainly not going to give more. If we can be faithful
with the little things, He may entrust us with
more (Matt. 25:23).
Let’s move on and look at Paul’s situation and
his joy through contentment and the Philippians’
joy through generosity.
III. PAUL’S JOY THROUGH CONTENTMENT
In verses 11 and 12, Paul shows that he has
learned to be content. Paul knows that the secret
of being content is found in thankfulness and appreciation
for what God provides, not in wanting
what you don’t have. You see, the only way to be
content is to be thankful for what God has provided
and is providing. And when you are thankful
and content, you have joy.
A. Contentment is a choice. All contentment is a choice because thankfulness is a choice. You choose to be thankful for what you have; it is a conscious choice to look at God as your Father and understand that He is providing and sustaining you and that every breath you take, everything you eat, and everything you have is a gift from Him—given out of love and care for you.
B. The opposite of contentment is covetousness.
If there is anything that robs us of
contentment, it is coveting—wanting something
that belongs to someone else. Paul found contentment,
and the secret was in his appreciation
of what God provided for him. Even if God didn’t
provide him the food or the clothing he needed,
he trusted that God would provide the strength
he needed to make it through anyway (see verse
13). His contentment was based on thanksgiving and gratitude that filled him with joy. Specifically,
he was also appreciative of the gifts that God had
provided through the Philippians to him while he
was in jail.
IV. THE PHILIPPIANS’ JOY THROUGH GENEROSITY
Paul goes on to comment about the Philippians’
gifts and their generosity toward him, and
he makes it clear from the very beginning that he
appreciates their willingness to share with him. He
talks about that in verses 15 and 16 and mentions
how, even in the early days of their acquaintance
with the gospel, they were willing to give. In fact,
when no one else gave, they gave.
A. Our generosity comes from God’s grace. The source of our generosity is the grace God has provided on the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the perfect expression of God’s generosity to us—He gave us His one and only Son. In the cross, you see Christ’s generosity in His willingness to give everything, including His life, for us. Through the cross, God poured out His grace upon us with incredible generosity. And when you have experienced the grace of God, it will change your heart and life, making you more grace-filled and therefore more generous yourself.
B. Generosity and joy are intertwined. From
this passage, you see that when you are filled
with joy, you will be generous. But the opposite
is true, too; generous people are also joy-filled
people. The two go hand-in-hand. So, poverty
does not take away joy because our generosity
comes from God’s grace.
When we worship God with our money by
giving generously, trusting Him to provide our every
need in Christ Jesus, we will find joy. When
we worship our money, we will find that we lack
the joy we really want.
Joy has nothing to do with material possessions.
You can live in complete poverty and have
joy. When you are content and thankful to God for
what He has provided, you can be generous. Paul
makes this clear in verse 19. In other words, God
will continue to provide for you “according to His
riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Be thankful for
what He has given you. Trust that He will continue
to meet your needs and be generous. Out of that
generosity will come joy!