“Miscommunication about Money in Ministry”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.10-13
Please open your Bibles to Philippians chapter 4. Five years ago or so before we, by the Lord’s grace, began Northlight Baptist Church, I was coming up on Thursday nights from Edmonton to lead a Bible study.
In the course of our study, we addressed the role of the church elder. And as I was preparing for that Bible study, a question formed in my mind about whether or not an elder should be paid. Must every elder in a local assembly receive some sort of salary?
And I as I was preparing, I had no intention whatsoever of considering any payment for myself. It never even crossed my mind that this study was to apply to me. I was thinking of it specifically with reference to a local church … should a local church do this for its elders, and I failed to think about what you all who were there that night may be thinking.
It wasn’t until during the actual Bible study that it dawned on me that those there that night would’ve been thinking about me! I began to fear that you would think that I brought up the topic because I was wanting money from you!
And so I remember going to great lengths to try to clarify myself … That no, I was not thinking about myself in fact it didn’t even cross my mind that you would even begin to think about me in the first place!
My face was red, that was so embarrassing! And because of their graciousness, they had no thought of ill against me for bringing up the topic.
But they sure could have thought bad about me! You can see there was a great potential for miscommunication about money in ministry.
That kind of thing is exactly what’s going on in the rest of this letter to the Philippians. The Philippians have sent Paul a gift of money and this last section is his thank you note.
Our text this morning will be just Philippians 4:10-13, but let’s read Philippians 4:10-20 and see if you can see how careful Paul is in addressing this sensitive issue about money.
Philippians 4:10–20 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 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. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
As you can see, Paul is being careful not to miscommunicate about money in ministry when he thanks them for their wonderful gift.
And he is thanking them.
You can see that in verse 10 where Paul writes, “you have revived your concern for me.” Verse 14 Paul writes, “you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” Verse 18 Paul writes, “I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, etc.”
Paul received from Epaphroditus their gift to him. So it’s clear that in this passage, Paul is thanking them for their gift to him.
Now, we’re going to get into the background of this in a future message, but what’s difficult about this passage is on the one hand, it has beloved verses in it, but on the other hand, it is commonly misunderstood. How difficult is that for a preacher?
Plus, the topic of money and giving isn’t exactly the most awe-inspiring topic…like “Overcoming The Goliaths Standing In Your Way” or “Grasping The Destinies Of Your Greatness” might be.
But any preacher’s job isn’t to “wow” his congregation or to have the most flashy stories to entertain his people. That’s why we preach expository messages.
Expository preaching is meant to simply expose the word of God preached and bring the congregation into full confrontation of it. Some passages and sermons may be more or less applicable or enjoyable to listen to, but if we are dedicated to the word of God, we enjoy each message to the extent that it adheres to the passage it is preaching.
ILL: If I preach from an instructional manual that came with your new ipad or quad, I could make my speech sound so attractive and awe-inspiring, but if I preach the quad manual to the new ipad owner, they might like the speech, but in the end they won’t be too happy!
It’s the same with preaching. We simply reveal what’s already there. So that in the end, when you stand before God and I stand before, and we as Northlight church stand before God, we won’t be disappointed.
As Paul writes this letter, he is in prison in Rome for preaching the gospel. And the word of that comes to the Philippian believers. Catastrophically, they are told, “Paul has lost everything!” And so the Philippian believers collect their funds, even in the midst of their poverty and persecution, like it says in 2 Corinthians 8:1–2 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia (that includes those in Philippi), 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
Those in Philippi, in spite of their poverty and persecution, gave liberally to Paul’s ministry.
So naturally when Paul writes to the Philippians, he thanks them for their gift to him. And in Paul’s thank you note, we learn principles on how best to communicate on matters of money and ministry.
Whenever you mix money and ministry, miscommunication can easily result. When it does, feelings get hurt, blame is cast, and ultimately the cause of Christ can be negatively affected.
Let’s follow Paul’s example on miscommunication about money in ministry.
Now, this is an introduction to this passage. Our text this morning has three levels, if you will. Obviously as we’ve noted, Paul is thanking the Philippians for their gift to him. That’s the first level.
The second level as we stated already is that we get principles on miscommunication about money in ministry.
But particularly in verses 10-13, we have a third level about contentment. And we will preach on learning the secret of contentment next time; I trust you’re content with that.
But let me first address this second level that concerns miscommunication about money in ministry as it’s found in verses 10-13. This topic will come up again throughout the rest of the letter, which we should finish in a couple of messages.
In this last section, we can gather invaluable principles about ministry and money. If you’re the giver, the one who gives the money, what should you think about the one who receives your gift? But if you’re the one receiving the money, what should you think concerning the one who gave?
That’s what we have in these verses.
Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
Paul is acknowledging their gift to him in a certain way. From this verse we can see a particular relationship between the giver and the ministry.
“A giver gives sporadically/occasionally to a ministry due to providential hindrance.” REPEAT And the problem is that the ministry can be tempted to think badly about the sporadic giver. Paul clarifies here that he’s not thinking badly about them.
Let’s unpack that though. The Philippians were concerned all along, but they lacked what? Opportunity. They were divinely hindered from giving for whatever reason.
Paul could have begun wondering before he received this gift, “Hey, I wonder why the Philippians haven’t given to me in a while?” And he could have thought poorly about them.
Paul knows they haven’t given, not because they don’t care, but because of some providence of God…perhaps the giver has had a financial setback or whatever. In the Philippian’s case, it was likely they didn’t know where he was or what was going on.
But now that they have given, Paul is thankful. Paul writes… “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me…”
ILL/EXP: This word, revived, occurs only here in the NT but was used in the ancient Greek world to describe what happens to your apple trees in springtime. They bloom again; they again, just like last year, are revived. Paul says, “Your care has revived again.” They expressed their care for Paul once again.
Paul has just said he rejoiced in the Lord greatly that they have given money to him… that they have revived their concern for him. How’s that for some potential misunderstanding?
ILL: Let me paraphrase how someone might misunderstand what Paul’s saying here. Imagine if you approach some minister and hand him some money for the first time in a long time and he immediately shoots back and says, “I’m sure glad that at long last you finally decided to think about me!” and then he gives you a little snooty face and walks off…..Now, we know that Paul’s not saying that! “You’re finally helping me, thanks a lot, where were you when I needed you?” No, that’s not Paul’s intent!
And he doesn’t want them to think that he is thinking that, so he feels compelled to clarify. He says in the rest of v.10 beginning at the word ‘indeed’, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has revived again …indeed…now let me clarify something here, I don’t think bad about you, …don’t get me wrong…you surely did care [all along], but you [just] lacked opportunity [to express that care].” So, you see Paul is clarifying; he’s making sure he is coming across correctly when it comes to money.
So, here from v. 10 we have our first principles, both for the giver and the receiver of money in ministry. The giver should say…
Giver: “I give when I have divine opportunity and I don’t assume they think bad about me since I am sporadic (v.10)
The ministry should say…
Ministry: “I don’t assume the giver doesn’t care about my ministry if he hasn’t given for a while.” (v.10)
So, the first principles concerning money in ministry is, give it whenever you have divine opportunity. And if you receive it for ministry, don’t assume the giver doesn’t care about your ministry if he hasn’t given for a while.
At Northlight Baptist Church, thankfully, I personally entirely removed from having to concern myself with the money here. I don’t have signing authority for the cheques and I don’t know who has and who hasn’t given money. I know what any member knows. Btw, I would recommend that for any ministry; it relieves the pastor from any distress or temptation.
TRANS: So now the ministry knows to think well of even sporadic givers.
Philippians 4:10 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed [first clarification], you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
So remember give when you have divine opportunity and if you’re on the receiving end of ministry, don’t assume the giver doesn’t care about your ministry if he hasn’t given for a while.
The second principle is found in vv. 11-13, where Paul now gives a second clarification. Paul’s first clarification was helping a ministry to think well of sporadic givers.
But now he feels the need to clarify concerning why he’s so happy about the gift, remember… he said, beginning of v. 10, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly… that you gave!”
What if you gave money to a ministry and they rejoiced greatly!? Do you think there could be some misunderstanding?
ILL: Let’s say you handed a ministry a wad of cash for their ministry and they in turn said, “WOW! Thank you soooo much….this is sooo awesome!!!! God has answered my prayers, YES!” [chaching!] You’d be like…. “Whoah…that was weird.” And you start thinking what? That I was desperate for money. And Paul doesn’t want them to think that about himself.
So when Paul says…
Philippians 4:10 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly…
They could be thinking that he’s overly enthusiastic.
So we have this situation: A giver gives money and the receiving ministry seems overly thankful for the gift to the one who gave it. REPEAT
But keep in mind what the Paul said…
Philippians 4:10 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly…over your giving, not in the gift, but I rejoice in the Lord!” The Philippians could be thinking, “Yeah right…that sounds a little too enthusiastic. You just want my money.”
Paul counters, “No, now, let me clarify my rejoicing here…v.11, “It’s not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
“Oh, I see, so you are genuinely rejoicing in the Lord then.”
“Sure thing,” says Paul. “In fact, let me elaborate on what it means to be content so you don’t misunderstand why I’m so enthusiastic about your giving …
12 I know how to get along with humble means [i.e., he knows how to go without very much], and I also know how to live in prosperity [he knows how to have a lot]. In any and every circumstance [in every situation] I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
That’s a mouthful but it’s all about expressing contentment…why is he expressing his contentment? So that those who gave to him, the Philippians, don’t misunderstand his enthusiasm toward the Lord over their gift. And Paul goes to great lengths so that they don’t have a misunderstanding about money in ministry.
He piles on the synonyms so that they know he’s not just wanting their money, he’s not dependent on them for their giving. Briefly notice these words again, v.12,
The words for contentment during times of need: v.12, I know how to get along with humble means. Going hungry, suffer need;
He also knows how to be content when he has a lot v.12, knows how to live in prosperity, learned the secret of being filled, and having an abundance.
He’s piling on synonyms to say “I really know how to be content and have a lot and have a little. “But Paul, how do you know how to be happy no matter what the circumstance?…v. 13… 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
So you can see then that Paul is going overboard to elaborate on the fact that he’s content; he knows how to get along without much and with a lot and can do so how? By the strength of Christ.
And he’s saying he’s content so that they don’t have a misunderstanding about his enthusiasm over their giving; he doesn’t want them to think he’s dependent on them for their giving.
APP: Now, let me add that I too am very thankful for the giving here. I know the numbers like you do and your giving is generous. As you walk with the Lord and are thankful for His ministry to you, keep on giving as an expression of worship and thanks.
APP: And by the way, that’s also why _____ at the offering says to the visitors, “We ask that you not feel obligated to give.” Because we don’t want that part of the service to be a hindrance to any visitor.
Now, as you are aware, v. 13 is often misquoted and ripped out of it’s context. And you have misquoted it in your life…you have, I guarantee it. And don’t you dare buy any merchandise with this verse on it … a t-shirt, don’t buy a key chain, a musical notes, leather bracelet, a volleyball bracelet, baseball, football bracelet, soccer or basketball bracelet. Don’t buy a dog tag, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball or soccer…. And yes, hockey too. Unless you’re clear on why Paul is using it.
It’s not that if you wear a Phil. 4:13 bracelet you’re going to win the soccer game. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” What if the other team has on those bracelets too?
We ought not treat the word of God like a charm. So this verse does not teach that when Christ empowers us nothing is beyond our abilities.
When Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” he’s not referring to doing everything. The word “all” is by the verses that precede it.
What all things can Paul do through Christ’s strength? Well if you go back up to verse 12, you will notice Paul says in the middle of verse 12 “in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment.” The word “any” and the word “every” are also the word translated “all” in verse 13.
So Paul uses the word “all” in verse 12 to refer to his circumstances. “In any and every circumstance” … And now verse 13 “I can do all things” what things can Paul do? He can live with contentment in all circumstances.
Verse 13 then, “I can do all things… In other words I can live content in all circumstances.”
Again, recall the situation here. To Paul, the one receiving the gift, it seems that the Philippians, the givers, they may be tempted to think that Paul is overly thankful for the gift because he desperately wants more money out of them. But Paul responds and elaborates in vv.11-13, saying he’s content in Christ, who enables him to bear up underneath the pressures of either having too much or too little.
That famous verse 13 then is meant to describe the power source for contentment. And in this context, Paul is using it so that the Philippians would know that he is not just wanting their money.
So you can buy a Phil. 4:13 t-shirt if you want to tell people that you’re content whether they give you money or not. Or the next time you see that verse on your friend, you can walk up to them and say, “Hey, thank you for telling me you’re content whether or not I give you money.”
That leads us to our final principles on giving.
The giver should say…
Giver: “I strive not to think the ministry’s enthusiasm about my gift is because he’s desperate for money.” (v.11)
The ministry should say…
Ministry: “I strive to express appropriate thanksgiving for the gift, knowing Christ has strengthened me to be content no matter if I’m wealthy or in need.” (v.11)
TRANS: So Paul was careful to make sure they know he’s still thinking well of them in v. 10; in vv.11-13, he was careful to point out that the reason for him being so enthusiastic was NOT because he was desperate for money…no, he’s content because Christ strengthens him in every situation.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.10-13
Now, next time we’ll deal with contentment from these same verses, because like Paul we need to learn the secret of contentment. But let me bring this to a point of application.
First, a minister’s work is his ministry and his church should seek to provide for him through that ministry.
1 Timothy 5 discusses the elder who labors in the word and doctrine and is to be counted worthy of double honor.
Paul quotes Deuteronomy in that chapter saying that you should not muzzle the ox when he treads out the grain. Just like you shouldn’t do that and you should let the ox eat, the man of God who ministers to his congregation shouldn’t be muzzled. He’s feeding the congregation spiritually, he has a right to reap materially from the congregation.
But too often, churches are unconcerned about their pastor’s necessities. I’m so thankful that’s not the case here. But many churches think, “Well, he shouldn’t be concerned about physical things, he’s doing God’s work.” In a discussion about a Christian servant’s low salary, a wealthy deacon told this Christian worker [true story], “You’re in the ministry, God wants you to sacrifice.” That’s at least a little insensitive.
Or you can hear some who say, “Well, that pastor or Christian worker if he’s right with God, he’ll labor for next to nothing and just count it all joy.”
No, it’s the church that needs to sacrifice and to give generously to the Christian worker.
I’m thankful we don’t have those problems here and we need to pray that we never do. It’s much easier to talk about these things when there are no problems, let me tell you!
But still other churches don’t pay their pastor a full time salary but they support 3 missionaries for $50 each per month. That church needs to support their pastor first and then work on giving to missionaries.
Churches need to work on supporting their pastors financially.
Now of course, secondly, there are many small churches like ours across our land and the church can’t support their pastor full time and the man of God of that assembly needs to have a second income. That’s totally fine. Paul was a tentmaker. But where the church can provide for their pastor, they need to do it.
But Paul worked with his hands to meet his own needs and his coworkers’ needs.
Speaking to the Ephesian elders, Paul says…
Acts 20:33–34 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.
Paul worked with his hands to meet his own needs and his coworkers’ needs.
This is the right thing to do. Paul could have demanded his own rights to receive an income from those he ministered to, but didn’t demand that right.
Paul says in …1 Corinthians 9:11–12 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? [not at all, that would be Paul’s right] 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? [I mean Paul is an apostle of Christ Himself…Paul has a right over them…] Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
Paul didn’t use his right to reap material things from them, but instead chose to endure all things. Why? So that he wouldn’t cause a hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
Because money oftentimes can be a hindrance to the gospel. A pastor or minister’s attitude about money, how he handles money, how he talks about money, how he uses money all can be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
Especially how he relates to his people about money… They can be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 2:9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
He didn’t even want to appear to have a ministry that sought to milk people for their money; he didn’t want to be a financial burden to any of them. He especially didn’t want to have it in his heart, but beyond that he didn’t want to even do anything that might cause somebody else to think that he is using the ministry as a cloak for covetousness.
Now, last, as we look forward to next week, your relationship with money.
You have physical needs and necessities. According to Gen. 2:7, you are material and you are spiritual.
Genesis 2:7 7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
You are made from the dust of the ground and have in you the breathe of life from God.
But it is very easy for you to be preoccupied with the material side of your life.
Matthew 6:24 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Are you slaving for wealth or God? Are you faithful in your giving, in your material possessions, in your bills, how you spend your money?
We need to be faithful with our wealth, both spiritual and material wealth.
697 in our hymnbook has a line in it that mentions our relationship to money and the progress of the gospel. Please turn there. O zion haste…Zion=the church in the author’s theology. Haste or hurry. Church hurry! O church hurry your …last stanza, stanza 4…