Miscommunication about Money in Ministry
Please open your Bibles to Philippians chapter 4. We have reached the end of our series in the book of Philippians. I trust that you are gaining much fruit from personally studying each passage.
Last Thursday night, the church in Athabasca met together. And we have been addressing the topic together of “Why a Baptist Church?”
And in the course of our study, we addressed last Thursday night 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 the elders should be paid. Must every elder in a local assembly receive monetary compensation?
And I as I was preparing, I had no intention whatsoever of considering any payment for myself. It never even crossed my mind. 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 the church there in Athabasca and maybe thinking if I bring up such a topic.
And during the course of the Bible study, it began to dawn on me that they would be thinking about me! I began to fear that they would begin to think that I was bringing this topic up because I wanted to receive money from them! So I went to great lengths to try to clarify that, no I was not thinking about myself, and in fact, it didn’t even cross my mind that you would even begin to think about me in the first place!
That was very embarrassing! Now to be fair, they had no thoughts of ill against me for bringing up such a topic. But as you can see, there was potential for miscommunication about money in ministry.
And this story is perfect for our passage tonight. So in God’s providence, unbeknownst to me, he had planned that we give attention to this passage which is all about miscommunication about money in ministry. That’s the title of the message tonight, miscommunication about money in ministry.
And, by the grace of God, I now have some principles to address with the folks tomorrow night in Athabasca from this passage. God knew what he was doing all along.
In our passage tonight, chapter 4 verses 10-20, Paul is very careful to communicate about money when it concerned the Philippians giving him money for his ministry. So, we also could have titled the message Careful Communication about Money in Ministry, but we’ll just leave it with the 3 m’s instead, “miscommunication about money in ministry.”
So what we’re going to do tonight is investigate these verses together and arrive at certain principles about money in ministry in order to avoid miscommunication.
Let’s read the passage together, Philippians 4:10-23 (NKJV) 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen..
As you can see, this passage is the thank you note of the book of Philippians. If you look at verse 10, where Paul writes that, “now at last your care for me has flourished again” he’s referencing their gift to him. And what we learn from broader study is that this gift was a gift of money.
Notice also verse 14 when Paul writes, “nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.”
Also, verse 18, where Paul acknowledges, “having received from Epaphroditus is the things sent from you a sweet smelling aroma an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”
You can see then, that this passage of Scripture is all about Paul thanking them for their gift of money to him.
And in now, we learn a little bit about the background of this gift, particularly from in verses 15-18. In these verses, we have two geographical locations mentioned and the name of the carrier of the gift.
Notice first of all, verse 15, Macedonia. Macedonia is the region in which lies in Philippi. So, during Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul writes in Philippi and a small group of believers receive the word of God. After ministering to them for some time, Paul moves on to other cities in Macedonia. For example, Paul, as it says in verse 16, worked in Thessalonica, which is in Macdonia. This was near Philippi and so the Philippians sent messengers to Paul to find out how he was doing. At that point, Paul was in need and so the Philippians to the collection of money and delivered it to him. After having heard that his need continued, Paul receives once again another monetary gift. In Paul’s testimony of these Philippian Christians is that they sent him a bit while in Thessalonica “once and again”… The idea being two times. So, twice Paul received aid while in Macedonia before leaving.
And verse 15 informs us that the Philippians helped Paul after he had left all of Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 11:9 helps us understand this. When Paul had left Macedonia and went to Corinth, it says that “the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed …while in Corinth…” is the idea. So the Philippians have aided him now 3 times.
And now, Paul is in prison in Rome for his preaching of the gospel. And word of this comes to the Philippian believers, that Paul has lost everything. And so the Philippian believers collect their funds, even in the midst of their poverty and persecution, as found in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
They, in spite of poverty and persecution, gave liberally.
And so Paul is dealing with matters of money and ministry.
And whenever you’re dealing with money and ministry, you must be careful how you communicate less someone gets the wrong impression. And 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 is negatively affected. When talking about and even thinking about money and God’s use of it in ministry you must be very careful to communicate. And Paul shows us an example of that in this passage.
Now, the main purpose of this passage in Paul’s mind is to truly express thankfulness for the Philippians gift for him. But, you say, “We have 2 of our favorite verses in this passage…”
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
…and you say…I was really blessed when I studied this passage with the thought of contentment.” So you say, “Isn’t this passage all about contentment? What’s the deal with the voluminous amount of material on contentment if this passage isn’t about contentment?”
And here’s the answer…The purpose for those 2 favorite verses of ours and the purpose for which Paul expresses contentment is this: to make sure that there is no miscommunication about money regarding his ministry.
If I wanted to, I could preach from this passage and develop a message solely on contentment. But if I’m going to preach the passage itself, as it stands, just like Paul and the Holy Spirit purposed it, I must preach on giving and receiving money in ministry. Now, preaching on contentment from this passage isn’t being unfaithful with the text per se; a biblical theology of contentment would definitely include these verses. But within an exposition through a book, I believe it’s important to let the passage stand as it is. You may have come tonight hoping to hear a message on being content or might rather hear a message on contentment, but I don’t really care! I care about being faithful to the text.
Paul goes to great lengths to express his contentment in Christ to make sure that the Philippians have a right perspective about their act of giving and about his act of receiving their gift. He is very careful to communicate about money and ministry.
And I’m going to prove that to you, and to do that, first allow me to comment about the structure of the passage. Paul acknowledges the Philippian’s gift to him 3 times as we noted and after each time, he offers some clarifications and it’s within these clarifications, that we find our verses on contentment.
In these verses, we have invaluable thought patterns when it concerns this sensitive area of 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? If you’re the one receiving the money, what should you think concerning the one who gave?
Paul the Example
Paul gives us the examples, for both the giver and the receiver! And part of Paul’s purpose in this chapter is to display himself to be an example. We know that from 4:9.
Paul sets himself up as an example when he says you should mark 4 different things about him and do them, chapter 4 verse 9, “The things which you […first of all…] learned and [second…] received and [third] heard and [fourth] saw in me, these do, [do these 4 things you observed about me] and [the result] the God of peace will be with you.”
So, if you learned it from Paul, received it from Paul, heard it from Paul, or saw Paul doing it, then you should do those things. That’s a universal statement, encompassing anything to do with Paul’s mind or body. Paul expresses here then that he is an example to the believer in any thought word or deed.
And the point here is that his desire that you make him your example continues on into our passage, starting in v. 10. In v. 10, we have Paul’s first acknowledgment of their gift, when he writes, “your care for me has flourished.”
First Acknowledgement, first principle
And here, he even sets himself up as an example of rejoicing when he says “I rejoiced in the Lord.” Remember, he just finished commanding them to rejoice in the Lord always, in v.4. And now, forming a smooth transition, Paul says of himself that he rejoiced in the Lord. The man of God practices what he preaches; know that when you give money to him.
So, to each of the 3 acknowledgment’s of the gift, we’ll attach a situation. And from our exposition of the text, we’ll garner some principles. So here’s the first situation that a ministry or a giver to a ministry might find himself in.
Situation: The ministry or the giver begins to experience this, that “A giver gives sporadically to a ministry due to providential hindrance.” REPEAT.
So, the giver doesn’t give, but it’s not because he’s not receiving a regular paycheck. It’s because of some clearly divine reason, either the giver has zero money or for whatever reason, is providentially hindered from giving. In the Philippians case, it was likely they didn’t know where he was or how he was doing.
So, Paul writes… “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again…
This word, flourished, 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 flourished again.” They expressed their care for Paul once again.
Now at this point, after acknowledging their gift, in the rest of v.10, Paul clarifies so they don’t misunderstand. He wants to make sure that they know he’s not thinking ill of them or rebuking them.
ILL: Let me paraphrase how someone might misunderstand what Paul’s saying here. Imagine if you approach me and hand me some money for the first time in a long time and I immediately shot back and said, “I’m sure glad that at long last you finally decided to think about me!” and then I gave you a little snooty face…..Now, Paul’s not saying that! You’re finally helping me, thanks a lot, where were you when I needed you?? No…
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 ‘though’, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again …though…now let me clarify something here, I mean…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.
They cared the whole time, they were just providentially hindered and Paul is recognizing that.
So, here from v. 10 we have our first set of principles, both for the giver and the receiver of money in ministry. The giver should say…
Giver: “I give whenever I have divine opportunity.” (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 principle 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.
TRANS: That’s the first principle of this first acknowledgment of the gift as found in vv.10. The second principle is found in vv. 11-13, where Paul gives a second clarification. Last time, he was careful so that they know he’s still thinking well of them. Remember that’s what he just did… “Now, I know you cared the whole time, I know that, don’t think that I’m thinking you didn’t care.” 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!”
ILL: Again, let’s say you handed me wad of cash and I 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.
First Acknowledgment, second principle.
Again, as in v. 10, we’ll have a situation and some principles from vv.11-13. First, the situation, which is….
Situation: A giver gives money and the receiving minister or ministry seems overly thankful for the gift to the one who gave.
And of course, here’s where some of our favorite verses from this passage come in to play. But again, these verses are here to clarify Paul’s motive for his thankfulness.
Paul says, v.10, “I rejoice in the Lord over your giving, not in the gift, but in the Lord!” The Philippians could be thinking, “Yeah right…that sounds a little too enthusiastic. You just want my money.”
Paul retorts, “No, now, let me clarify my rejoicing here…v.11, “It’s not that…I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Paul now elaborates on what it means to be content for the purpose that they don’t misunderstand his enthusiasm, v.12…
12 I know how to be abased [i.e., he knows how to go without very much], and I know how to abound [he knows how to have a lot]. Everywhere and in all things [or, in each and every circumstance] I have learned [Lit. learned the secret] both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
You can see he’s piling on synonyms, notice them briefly, v.12,
He ain’t got much: v.12, abased. Hungry, suffer need;
He gots lots, v.12 abound, full, and then abound again.
He’s piling on synonyms to say “I really know this and I really know how to handle this…but how do I know how to be content, you might ask Paul, “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 by the strength of Christ.
Now, as you are aware, v. 13 is misquoted. And you have misquoted it…you have, I guarantee it. And don’t you dare buy any merchandise with this verse on it. Don’t buy a key chain, a musical notes, leather bracelet, a volleyball bracelet, baseball bracelet, football bracelet, soccer or basketball bracelet. Don’t buy a dog tag, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball or soccer…. And yes, hockey too. As saw on a website.
And some of you, knowing we’re were going to preach this passage tonight, had the audacity to wear one of these tonight…can I see a show of hands? You know who you are. Torch that thing…
No seriously, why is that merchandise so wickedly evil, that only lewd fellows of the baser sort wear them? Because that verse is taken innocently out of context. When Paul wrote this, he was not saying that when he was empowered by Christ, nothing was beyond his capabilities, which is how the English versions lead us. Again, it’s not that when Paul was empowered by Christ, nothing was beyond his capabilities
The confusion is centered on the word “all.” And the Greek word for “all” is often if not always limited by its context. In this case, the Greek language demands that the “all” be limited by the previous occurrences of the word “all.” Well, what are those occurrences?
If you back up to v. 12, you’ll notice one occurrence when the NKJ says, “Everywhere and in all things….” The Greek has 2 occurrences, very literally, “in all and in all” or translated more properly, “in any and every situation.” Situations are on Paul’s mind, when he says, end of v. 11, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” See, he’s talking about a state, a situation in life.
So, the “all” under consideration in v. 13 is not just anything that you have to do today, “I can do all things…” like playing soccer, basketball, baseball, or hockey. No. The “all” is restricted to the situation as found in the context. And what are the different situations in the context? We already went over them didn’t we? There are 2. Either abasement, hunger, suffering need or abounding and being full.
So, with reference to this context then, you can only do 2 things through Christ who strengthens you. Naturally, Christ strengthens us for other things, but with reference to this context, through Christ’s strength you will learn to either have lots or have little. And boy don’t we need grace today to learn how to have a lot of stuff.
Again, recall the situation here. To Paul, the one receiving the money, 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.
So, we have our second set of principles under this first acknowledgment of their gift in v.10.
The giver should say…
Giver: “I strive not to think the recipient’s enthusiasm about my gift is because he’s desperate for money.” (v.11)
The recipient 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 no, he’s content because Christ strengthens him in every situation.
In verse 14, Paul offers his second acknowledgement of their gift. Here, Paul goes to great length to praise them for their giving, when he says, v. 14, “Nevertheless, you have done well that you shared in my distress.”
He’s acknowledging their gift now for a second time, when he says “you shared in my distress.” The first being in v.10, when he writes, “your care for me has flourished again.”
Their gift to Paul, v. 14, was a sharing, a participation in his distress…and of course you remember he’s in prison. They are, in some way, participating in Paul’s distress when they gave him a gift.
How are the able to actually participate in Paul’s persecution? The underlying text would lead us to understand that when the Philippian believers gave a gift, it was a sign; they were signifying something. It was a sign, during those days of persecution, that they were identifying themselves with Paul, the persecuted one. They desire in every part to participate with him in his affliction and are not fearful of any consequence. They are telling Paul, through the gift, “We’re on your side Paul, no matter what the cost.”
And, what’s also interesting is that this statement, too, is somewhat of a clarification, when he says, v. 14, “Nevertheless.” Nevertheless, you have done well to give the gift, thereby demonstrating you are in every part here with me, signifying your complete allegiance to me and to the cause of the gospel.
If you’re the Philippian Christian folk listening to this letter for the first time, you’ve got a thought after reading verses 11-13. “Well,” they might say to themselves, “if Paul is so content with Christ, is our gift of none effect? Does it matter that we sent it?” Paul clarifies… ‘of course it’s effectual! You did very well in sending it! It’s so incredibly meaningful, in fact, because it demonstrates to me personally that you not only care v.10, but you also desire to identify yourself with me and the gospel without fear of consequence.’ And the rest of vv. 14-19 are an elaboration on that fact.
This leads us to our situation and the principles of giving to take home from this section of our passage. The situation is this…
Situation: The generous giver may not be fully aware of his participation in the ministry to which he gives. REPEAT
I’ll just give the principles, and then apply.
When I give, I am fully participating in every cause of that ministry, whether it be in their affliction or in their ministry goals (v.14). We saw that one clearly.
Second: I will give even when no one else does (end of v. 15). “No church shared with me but you only.”
Third: I will give repeatedly (v. 16). Not only were they the only ones giving, but they gave repeatedly and we that.
Assumptions regarding the Recipient
Fourth, the giver should say…I will assume that the recipient doesn’t seek the gift itself, but the fruit that abounds to my account, if you notice Philippians 4:17 (NKJV) Not that I seek the gift (again, like in verse 11, Paul says “not that.” He’s again clarifying….Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account…. In other words, don’t think ill of the recipient, that he covets your gift.
The recipient now…, v. 14…if you receive money for ministry,
Be careful to clarify, when appropriate, that the giver has done well in his gift (v.14).
Second: Make sure you seek not the gift for yourself, but the fruit for the giver (v.17). That’s a tough one, but possible through Christ’s strength.
And very quickly now, the last acknowledgment of their gift…
Third acknowledgment, vv.18-20.
A final situation and principles.
Situation: The giver, after having given the gift, is asking of himself, “Does my gift actually matter to God? Does God care and do you, the recipient, appreciate it?” Does God care and does the recipient care?
For the giver…
When given to a worthy cause, I know my gift is honored by God (v.18).
3 fold description. Sweet smelling aroma (OT background of required sacrifices to God); it’s acceptable to God and well pleasing in his sight. One commentator put it, this is the highest praise possible for a gift given.
I know that, if I respond to the principles in this passage, that God, by the standard of His riches, will meet all my needs (v. 19).
Not a blanket statement for just anyone or any Christians, but for those types of givers as are found in this passage.
Third: I don’t expect to be given anything from the recipient in return; God will meet my needs (v.19).
Notice it’s God who meets your need; Paul puts that in there out of a desire to compensenate them, but knows he shouldn’t and that he can’t. So, the giver should not expect a ministry to give something back to you other than, perhaps, a tax receipt!
Express that their gift is helpful (v. 18).
People need to understand that gifts actually do help the ministry continue!
Second: Be careful to ensure the giver of God’s pleasure (v.18).
Not only does it help the ministry, but God is honored by it.
Remind the giver of God’s promises; don’t feel like you must give something in return (v. 19).
Often that’s the case when you receive large amounts of money; the receiving ministry should not feel obligated to send back a gift card for $20 to Timmies or something.
Finally, v. 20, Give all the glory to God
In the end, when it’s all said and done, both giver and recipient should give praise to God!
Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV) 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So, if you really want a heavenly minded heart, give money. Why is that the case, because just a few verses later, Jesus says…
Matthew 6:24 (NKJV) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon/wealth.
God in his wisdom uses money, the very thing that’s in competition with Him, He uses it to sustain men of God in God-ordained ministries. And, in God’s infinite wisdom, it’s the very thing that will prove whether or not you have a heavenly minded heart. Are you giving?
So, let’s give. Let’s give sacrificially, in God’s providence and let’s praise God for the fruit he brings from it. Let’s bow for prayer….