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Generously Giving to Ministry
Financial partnership in the Gospel–Philippians 4:14-17, part 1
Who of you this morning are the ones who write thank you notes? Awesome! Christians are those who say thank you. They do not take gifts, service or ministry for granted–they say thank you, they express thanks, they write thank yous. They don’t just feel it in their hearts, Christians actually say it—“thank you.”
Jesus put a high premium on saying thank you. It is one of the character qualities of the redeemed heart and one of the clear indicators of genuine salvation. Remember when the Lord healed the ten lepers, but only one returned. What did He say? Luke 17:15 to 18, “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’”
Giving thanks is glorifying God. You’re to give thanks for what people do for you, because ultimately God willed it–God Himself gave it to you through them. The church in Philippi had sent Paul another gift through Epaphroditus. And Paul under house arrest in Rome writes them a thank you note in verses 10 to 20 of Philippians 4.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4 in verses 10-13. Paul has been experiencing a cold, dark winter season. Paul’s been trusting God’s providence for almost five entire years while he was held captive, delayed, shipwrecked and under house arrest awaiting trial before the infamous Nero. But now the Philippians sent him a generous gift and it is like spring has bloomed.
So giving thanks is what Paul does in these verses. And giving generously is what the Philippians did for Paul. And both giving thanks and giving generously is who Christ is and what Christians do. Two major application questions arise from this text. Are you a thankful believer? And are you a generous Christian?
Are you thankful or ungrateful–are you appreciative or apprehensive? Other than your family, do you daily serve others? If not daily, then weekly? Do you faithfully give to the work of Christ? Are you a generous or a meager giver? The national average of Christian giving is right around 2% and continues to drop each year.
And with giving in general, only 32% of giving is directed at the Church, which alone is eternal. Does Christ receive the first of your paycheck, or the last? Do you give lavishly or only give what’s leftover—the 2%? There are many here who give nothing of their finances and others very little. Do you really believe God’s Word? Then listen.
Proverbs 11:25 says, “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.” He says when you’re generous with others, God will be generous with you. Jesus said it like this in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Be generous and God will bless you now and bless you eternally.
In verses 14 to 17, Paul says thank you for being so generous. And Paul will add in verses 18 to 20, because you’ve given so sacrificially, God will take care of your needs. The opposite is also true. You can short circuit God’s blessing in your life by not being thankful and not being generous. You can stymie God’s blessings by being stingy.
Read aloud with me verses 14 to 17, “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. 15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”
Because giving is so crucial to your life and maturity as a Christian, Paul will make certain the Philippians understand three treasured truths about generosity.
1 Giving generously to Christ is a PARTNERSHIP Verse 14
Giving is a massive encouragement to people–as Paul makes it clear in verse 14, their giving was an encouragement to him. Verse 14 says, “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” The Greek word translated “nevertheless” describes a transition in Paul’s thank you note. Paul has to clarify what he just said in verses 10 to 13 or the Philippians will misunderstand.
Picture yourself so poor you can barely feed your family. But you’re so in love with Christ, you generously give much of what you have to help the man who led you to Christ. But then this same man, Paul the apostle, writes you in verses 10 to 13 and says this. I know how to get along without your gifts. I trust in PCP, a providential, caring and powerful God. I can live above my circumstances.
I don’t need your financial gifts to rejoice. I don’t need your generosity to serve Christ. I’m not waiting for money in order to preach the Gospel, plant churches or minister. Wow!
If you were that super poor, Philippian believer who just gave super sacrificially to Paul, and you hear Paul saying those words in verses 10 to 13, you might conclude Paul is ungrateful, or Paul doesn’t care, or why did I sacrifice so much to Christ for Him? That is why Paul writes verse 14, “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.”
Paul is careful not to leave the impression the gift had been meaningless to him, or that he didn’t appreciate it. On the contrary, he indicates he was super pleased with it. Notice four encouraging truths in this verse–four P’s.
First PLEASING–Paul writes, “you have done WELL”
The Greek word translated “well” means you’ve done something noble, you’ve done a beautiful deed–this is a God-pleasing Christlike gift you’ve sent me. This is an attractive good deed. Noble or well is something which shows off Christ–it points to Him. And it was a . . .
Second PARTNERING–Paul writes, “you have done well TO SHARE”
Paul viewed the Philippians’ generosity as evidence of their partnership with him in ministry. Paul began this letter celebrating their partnership. Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God … 5 in view of your participation in the gospel.” And now at the end of his letter, Paul declares here in verse 14, you did good to become partners in my affliction. “You have done well to share with me”–partner with me.
And in the very next verse, Paul said in chapter 4:15, “no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone.” The exact word “sharing” of verse 14, is a word used three times in the New Testament, once as sharing and twice as participate. It comes from two words–fellowship and with. By giving, the Philippian church was fellowshipping or partnering with Paul.
Paul looks at their financial gift as if it were the entire church who came with Epaphroditus to visit him while he is chained to a guard under house arrest. With their gift, they are there bearing the burden of his difficult situation as a prisoner on behalf of the Gospel. You’ve partnered with me in this ministry. You are now participating in what I am doing for Christ.
Then add the verb you have DONE—“you have done well to share” tells us their partnership is a fact, and the participle share or co-partner is continually ongoing. You continue to be a partner with me as I serve Christ in Rome. For Paul, it is very . . .
Third PERSONAL–Paul writes, “you have done well to share WITH ME”
You have partnered with me personally. Your gift was not to an organization or an event, but to a man they know–Paul. They’re connected to the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the person of Paul. They’ve sent a gift to a person they know, love and trust. They personally came to his apartment and gave their gift to him personally. When we give, we give primarily to people who are seeking to serve Christ in ways we can’t. Their giving is very personal, and it is very . . .
Fourth PRACTICAL–Paul writes, “to share with me IN MY AFFLICTION”
The Greek word translated affliction, or trouble in the ESV, means an oppressive state of physical, mental, social or economic adversity. It describes oppression, tribulation, anguish, trouble, and distress.
Have you ever been at the bottom of the barrel, where you feel finished? Or at a place where you felt life had actually stepped on you and you felt squashed? This word affliction originally meant squashed. Paul is hit with the worst trials, but he proves he’s genuine, remaining faithful, and thanking the Philippians for sending him a gift in the midst of being squashed.
And the Philippians share with Paul’s affliction, because they’ve experienced some of Paul’s afflictions themselves. They’re being persecuted by Romans, pressured by unsaved Judaizers, pressed by unsaved Gentile grace-abusers, partitioned by division. They’re being squashed too. Part of their generosity came from the fact these believers felt Paul’s affliction as if it were their very own.
Paul wanted his readers to understand, giving to support his ministry was taking up fellowship with him as a partner in his present tribulations. Verse 13, “share with me in my affliction.” Though the Philippians were not in prison with Paul, 1) they participated in his afflictions through their monetary sacrifice, and 2) they partnered with his tribulations because of their own sufferings in Philippi.
You know this–when you’ve gone through the agony of certain trials, you have a much deeper compassion to help others who go through similar trials. Now verse 14, “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” Paul says, your giving is an encouragement to me. And Christian, your giving is an encouragement to others.
And beyond encouragement–giving to the mission and ministry of others is a biblical indicator of spiritual health. 1) with Zaccheus, generosity was a sign of a regenerate heart, and 2) giving to ministry and mission is evidence of a partnership with the Gospel.
All Christ-honoring giving is to be centered on the Gospel and God’s Word. In fact, if it is not giving to the Gospel ministry of God’s Word, have no part of it. I apply this literally. I don’t help teams go overseas to play ping pong, but I help students go overseas to share the Gospel, preach Christ, teach God’s Word, disciple, help missionaries, establish churches and other aspects of the work of Christ.
I never give to “kiss the kitties”, “whack the whales”, or “tease the tigers”. If it’s not giving to the Gospel/Word ministry, I have no part in it. That’s not where my heart is at. Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Listen, Christian friend–what you do with your resources is a window into your soul. The question is, what does God see when He looks in your heart? The Philippians had nothing to fear. Paul says in verse 14, “You did good.” Giving thanks and giving generously is who Christ is and what Christians do.
2 Giving generously is purposeful COMMITMENT Verses 15 to 16
Paul says in verses 15 and 16, “Know this.” Give to the person with a biblical commitment to establishing churches. Give to the person who is teaching God’s Word and proclaiming the Gospel. Give to the person materially where you will be blessed spiritually. Give to the person involved in an ongoing ministry.
Look at verse 15, “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” Paul made certain he was never misunderstood or accused of being driven by financial purposes, so he always refused regular support, or any sort of salary.
At the same time, he could not refuse the gifts sent to him by the Philippian church without insulting or offending them. Paul never requested or expected even an occasional gift, since his true wealth was actually his contentment and his contentment came from trusting in a providential, caring and powerful God.
In verses 15 and 16, Paul gratefully acknowledges their present gift delivered by Epaphroditus was the continuation of a series of gifts. But do you sense a tone? An attitude? Paul almost seems harsh–no church partnered with me except you.
Then using technical accounting terms, when he says no one fellowshipped with me “in giving and receiving” makes Paul sound like a cold-hearted man of commerce. Giving and receiving are Greek words, which genuinely reflect business terminology. Plus, the Greek word “in the matter” is sometimes translated “accounts” or “accounting”.
Then, the terms giving and receiving can mean “credit” and “debit”. Paul was a careful steward of his resources and kept accounts of receipts and expenditures. So Paul is saying in verse 15, here’s the account of my expenditures and receipts–that is, an account in which the Philippians were the givers and Paul was the receiver.
But in this letter, in Greco-Roman culture, these words are seasoned with friendship. We know this because Paul recalls their mutual ministry by taking his readers back ten years to his first preaching of the Gospel in Philippi in verse 15–see it? ”That at the first preaching of the gospel.”
When Paul left Philippi and traveled ninety-five miles down the Egnatian Way to Thessalonica, the poverty-stricken Philippians repeatedly sent representatives to Thessalonica with gifts to meet his needs. And when Paul left the region of Macedonia, Philippi remained the only church to support him.
Even as Paul went to wealthy Corinth, Paul would not accept money since the proud Corinthians were prone to assume bad motives. So even in Corinth, it was the Philippians from Macedonia who helped him, as Paul explained to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:9, “And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need.”
The generosity of the Philippians was staggering. They gave from the heart. Their giving, along with Paul’s hard tent-making work, allowed Paul to minister free of charge. Their Gospel partnership was marked by astounding generosity. Second Corinthians 8:3 to 5 describes the Philippians, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”
You say, “Chris, I am not as wealthy as the Philippians.” The Philippian church was not a wealthy church. They were, in fact, extremely poor. They were a poverty-stricken church. Yet they were big-hearted, in love with Christ and passionate about the Gospel and God’s Word going forth. Therefore they were committed to being generous.
Nothing would stop them from giving—it was not an option. Their giving is an example, a model to pursue and a pattern for us to follow. Giving thanks and giving generously is who Christ is and what Christians do. What does generous giving do?
FIRST A commitment to giving gives you a wider ministry than you normally have
Paul says you are partners with me in ministry. Why? The Philippians hadn’t traveled with him. He was 800 miles away. They were partners because they supported him. The Philippians impacted Thessalonica and Corinth with their financial support of Paul. Whatever you support, you’re a partner in.
Not all of you can go to the mission field. Not all of you can preach God’s Word. But whenever you give, you become a partner in ministry–to training men, to missionaries’ efforts around the world, to reaching the lost locally, to training international pastors and their future influence for Christ. Your giving allows you to be involved in the ministry of this church around the world. You are partners in what God is doing in us and through us.
SECOND A commitment to giving points to Christ and makes you like Christ
The most Christ-like thing you can do is give, because Jesus was a giver. Christ was generous. Christ was sacrificial. When you give, you point to Christ who gave. The Philippians also had a reputation for generosity pointing to Christ. They were an example to the rest of the world as they gave out of their extreme poverty, giving more than they could give.
Two thousand years later, you and I still know about their giving. Will FBC have a reputation that will last 100 years, if the Lord tarries? If so, what will we be known for? I hope one of the qualities we will be remembered for is to be known as a generous church because it encourages others and points to Christ.
Paul says in verses 15 and 16 that you gave to me when nobody else did and it encouraged me. Have you ever received a gift that encouraged you? Sure. Have you ever given a gift you knew was an encouragement to others? Sure you have. Giving is an encouragement because both giving thanks and giving generously is who Christ is and what Christians do. But giving is even more awesome than partnering.
3 Giving generously is an ETERNAL investment Verse 17
Look at verse 17. Giving is an investment in eternity, in Heaven’s bank, in forever rewards. The only way to lay up treasure in Heaven is to give it away while on Earth. It is literally true–we only save what we give.
Paul rejoiced over their gift, but was still content in God’s provident provision for him because Paul was selfless. That selflessness led him to write verse 17, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Paul says under the inspiration of the Spirit, I am not continually seeking a gift at all, but I am continually seeking your reward in Heaven.
Paul’s words here are filled with the language of commerce, but with intense spiritual application. Their gift brought Paul great joy, not because of its material benefit to him, but because of its spiritual benefit to them. Paul was not embarrassed by their material gift, but is revealing his genuine heart about receiving a gift.
Did you notice the two identical verbs in verse 17? Two seeks–Paul says, “I am not seeking your cash, I am seeking your crown. I am striving, seeking, for your eternal reward.” Paul describes eternal reward as the profit. I seek for the profit–the ESV rightly uses the word fruit. I seek the spiritual fruit which grows in your eternal account in Heaven.
Using commercial words again, Paul is telling the church in Philippi he wants the credit side of their eternal ledger to grow as large as possible. Paul wants the reward from their giving to grow like fruit, as big as possible eternally. He wants their giving to pay big heavenly dividends.
He says in verse 17, “increases to your account,” or ESV, “increases to your credit.” This present participle, increases, signifies continuing multiplication that creates compound spiritual interest credited to their heavenly account. The word account or credit is exactly what you might think it is–an itemized statement of money owed, goods shipped or services rendered.
There is coming a heavenly payback for services rendered on Earth. And Paul is interested in their earthly gift because of the heavenly payback. There are earthly blessings now for giving generously now. And there are also awesome heavenly rewards for giving generously now. In Mark 10:29 and 30 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
You are blessed now by giving. The New Testament actually tells you the fruits harvested by giving are a good conscience, assurance of salvation, enriched fellowship with believers, increased joy and love (both imparted and received), a higher ability to reflect God’s glory in Heaven, and the ability to praise on Judgment Day.
And God pays interest–Paul says giving “increases to your account.” Jesus said one hundred fold will be returned to him who gives up for the Gospel’s sake. Do you know what a hundred fold is? That is 10,000% interest. No bank on Earth gives you that rate! Paul reminds the Philippians, you’ll receive heavenly reward with interest for your giving–verse 17, “the profit which increases to your account.”
In Heaven, God keeps track of everything you give in the power of the Spirit and for God’s glory. Every time you give, it’s recorded in Heaven. Matthew 10:42, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” If you give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, God knows. Every time you give, and every time you’re generous, it’s recorded and will be rewarded. It is an investment with incredible interest.
Sadly, most Christians don’t live by faith. They really don’t believe in laying up treasure in Heaven. They are like me–when I go to the bank and ask, “How much interest have I accumulated?” The teller lady asks me, “How much have you deposited?” “Well, let me see–hmmm, nothing.” She says, “Mr. Mueller, let me help you. The rule is, you don’t get any interest if you don’t make any investment.”
That is true for you in Heaven as you live for Christ now. How do you store up treasure in Heaven? How do you do it? By giving. By investing in Heaven. And one day you’ll face Christ and He will settle up accounts. Matthew 25:19, “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” The Bible teaches, those who give generously will be blessed in this life and will be rewarded greatly in the next.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 11:24 to 25, “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.” To the Corinthians Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Giving in the power of the Spirit and giving for the glory of God will bless you in this life and will be rewarded in eternity. When people give knowing their name will be mentioned, such as, “This program is made possible by a grant from the Shawn Farrell Foundation,” this is not rewarded. When you give so you can have your name on a brick in a building, that is not rewarded.
But the Philippians were not seeking to build a reputation or be remembered, but to generously give to the work of preaching the Gospel and planting churches through their beloved father in the faith. So Paul encourages their generosity, reminding them they’re compounding spiritual interest and will receive eternal reward in eternity.
Paul is saying the same thing Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21, “Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus made this clear in Matthew 6:19 to 20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
The only way to lay up treasure in Heaven is to give it away while on Earth. The only money you will see again is the money you give away. It is literally true–we only save what we give.
Bow your heads in prayer with me. You are not a mature believer unless you’re generous. You’ll not be godly in this culture until your financial giving becomes intentionally sacrificial. You cannot be Christ-like without giving to His purposes through His church.
Do not be a statistic–learn the joy of generosity. Second Corinthians 9:7, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Make giving your first and most sacrificial line item on your budget. Stop putting this off. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are mature or godly unless you sacrificially give financially to Christ’s work. Giving thanks and giving generously is who Christ is and what Christians do.
Remember what Christ did for you. Christ sacrificed all for us. Christ gave His life for us. He bought you–2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
When you come to Christ, you die to self and live for Him. You and all you have belong to Him. Everything you possess, all your finances, are all His. Then give to His work, His purposes, and His mission. All born again Christians want to, but you must engage your will to do so. It may hurt at first, but God promises to bless you for it.
Those who don’t want to give are not His child, because every born again heart is a giving heart. You need to see your greed, materialism, and selfishness for what it is–a ticket to Hell. You must turn from your sin and depend on Christ dying for you and rising to live for you as you surrender your life to the Lord of all lords. Don’t play with your soul–how do you know if Christ will ever call you again to Himself?