“Principles of Christian Giving Part 1”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.14-17
Philippians 4. By the world’s standard of measure, Canadians are a very generous people. 2010 stats show that 84% of Canadians aged 15 and over (about 23.8 million Canadians) donated to charitable and nonprofit organizations. The average individual donation is about $446 per year. In total that is $10.6 billion dollars donated by Canadians every year.
That’s fairly generous. Canadians compared to the rest of the world are generous. In fact, the $10.6 billion we give each year to nonprofit organizations exceeds the gross domestic products of 55 countries. Canadians give more each year than what 55 countries are worth.
So by the world’s standards, we’re a pretty generous bunch! But didn’t Jesus have a different gauge of generosity? Perhaps you remember the story. Past the trumpet-mouthed boxes in the treasury the rich people are strutting, putting in much. Then, all alone and unnoticed, an old woman moved to put in two pennies, all she owned. Jesus ignored the wealthy and their gifts while lauding her small offering. The reason was simple: the rich gave out of their excess, while she gave from her poverty.
How many of the million-dollar donors do without any luxury, let alone any necessity, to give their millions of dollars? Don’t misunderstand, generosity is preferable to tight-fistedness, but Christ’s emphasis has to be appreciated. Generosity should be based on how much we keep for ourselves not just on how much we give to others.
We’ll get more into that principle later, but truth be told…giving is a part of the Christian life. Jesus says in Luke 6:30 “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Again he says in …
Matthew 6:2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
And Paul the apostle writes in … 2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Christian giving is part of the Christian life.
We’ve arrived to our final messages in Philippians as we’ve preached through this letter from Paul the apostle and we’ve come to a section in which Paul is thanking the Christians in the city of Philippi for their gift to him. And he’s being careful about this most sensitive topic of money so as not to give the wrong impression.
Philippians 4:10–13 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me [speaking of the Philippian’s gift to him, they have revived their concern for him…but so they understand he’s not upset they haven’t given in a while, he clarifies…]; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. [it’s not that they weren’t concerned before, but they simply didn’t know how to help him. But so they don’t misunderstand and think that he’s discontent and not trusting in the Lord he says…] 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.
We preached on those verses last time and today in verse 14 we shift…we shift from a focus on Paul, the one receiving the money to a focus on the givers, the Philippians. And from verses 14-17, we’ll have our first set of principles on Christian giving.
Let’s read vv. 14-17 notice Paul is focused on the giver…
Philippians 4:14–17 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.
In these verses, we have 6 brief principles of giving. We’ll spend most of our time on the first 2, then in rapid fire we’ll address the last 4. As we consider these principles, let us apply this to our giving. Specifically, we’ll apply it to giving to the Lord’s work, giving to spread the gospel further and deeper into people’s hearts
First, giving to the work of the Lord is good.
Giving is good (v.14)
Philippians 4:14 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
They have done well by giving to Paul. Now, why does Paul have to say that? Isn’t it obvious?
Well, no, especially after reading vv. 11-13. Paul wants to thank them for their gift, but he doesn’t want to come across as dependent on them for their giving. But if he comes across as not depending on them for their giving, they might think that he didn’t need what they gave.
ILL: Imagine sending money to a missionary who is telling other people about Jesus and a few weeks later you get a thank you note back saying, “Thank you so much for your concern for me! But I don’t thank you because I am in need. I have learned to be content no matter how much money I receive. You see, I’m dependent on the Lord.”
What would you think? “They didn’t need my support! Or at least they don’t seem very thankful.”
So Paul wants to clarify in verse 14, “nevertheless you have done well…to give.”
Paul did not want them to misunderstand, it is good to give to the spread of the gospel. It is good to give, not just be concerned about or to pray for others, but to give to the cause of the gospel.
We don’t want to be like the one that James describes … James 2:16 16 … “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
Be concerned and give! It is good to give to the cause of the gospel.
APP: But it’s not good to give to just any missionary or to any Christian organization. Today, you have opportunity to give thousands of dollars to Christian churches and organizations that claim that if you give to them, God’ll heal you, give you 100x more back, bless your marriage, strengthen your kids, or whatever. Prosperity theology, the prosperity gospel is a horrible evil that has infected many many churches and to them it has become all about the money. “Show them the money” and they even say that. They don’t hide it!
So, it’s not good to give to those churches or organizations.
So, we need to be careful to whom we give the Lord’s money. The Philippians were pretty safe with giving to the apostle Paul, but beyond that we need to give our money to those who are striving to live like him and follow his example as we have it in the New Testament.
So we need to be discerning. Are they spreading the gospel? Are they training people, caring for the Lord’s people, are they equipping the saints?
But once a godly, Christ-approved ministry is found, giving is good!
TRANS: But in what sense is it good? Secondly, giving is a fellowship.
Giving is a fellowship (vv.15-16)
Philippians 4:15–16 15 You yourselves also know [you and I both know is the idea], 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.
Now, why is Paul saying this? He’s encouraging them; he’s elaborating about how they have done well in their giving.
But notice Paul uses the word “share” twice. First in verse 14…
Philippians 4:14 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me [“with me” is in italics meaning that it is not in the original Greek…read it this way then… you have done well to share] in my affliction.
Philippians 4:15 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;
That word share has the idea of holding things in common, fellowship, participation. Paul is telling the Philippians that in their giving money to him, they have fellowship, a sharing, a holding things in common.
TRANS: What things do they hold in common?
It is a fellowship in affliction
Paul says verse 14 that by giving to him, they shared with him in his affliction. You remember, Paul is in prison. Paul is persecuted for his faith in Jesus. And in jail, Paul’s needs were not met by the taxpayers of the Roman citizens. Paul was completely dependent upon those who were outside of jail for the basic necessities of life.
And so when the Philippians gave to Paul, they shared in his affliction. When they gave him money and other necessities, it was then a sign. They’re giving was a demonstration, a sign that they were not only giving to Paul but identifying themselves with Paul, the one who was persecuted. They are identifying themselves with Paul and what he stands for. In effect they are telling Paul through the gift that they gave, “We’re on your side Paul, no matter what the cost.” They shared in Paul’s affliction.
So Paul was reading between the lines… They were supporting him and doing so because of the gospel. So not only was the gift meaningful because it met his needs, it was meaningful because they were signifying that they were supporting him and his work in the gospel.
You can imagine Lydia from Acts 16, the first to come to Christ in Philippi, or the Philippian jailer who was saved after the miraculous earthquake when Paul was in jail there… You can imagine them standing up in the Philippian congregation …Lydia saying, “I know we are a very poor congregation [as it says in 2 Co. 8:2], but out of our great joy in Christ and his salvation let us give to him as much as we can!” The Philippian jailer stands up in the great congregation and says, “indeed! See how you spent his whole life serving the Lord and now will we let him die in prison for a lack food? Though we are in such a great trial ourselves, let us send him our gifts at once.”
TRANS: And so the Philippians giving was extraordinary fellowship!
It can be extraordinary fellowship
It is an extraordinary fellowship with Paul.
Philippians 4:15–16 15 You yourselves also know (as well as I do), 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 is elaborating here on how good their giving has been. And he’s doing that so that they don’t misunderstand. He really does value their gifts to him; they give and it is extraordinary!
The story goes like this. Paul left Troas in what is modern-day Turkey and crossed over to what is modern-day Greece and proceeds to Philippi. Because he and Silas are preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, they are beaten, arrested and thrown out of town. But before doing that, they establish this church in Philippi. After leaving Philippi and making quick stops at Amphipolis and Apollonia, they arrived at Thessalonica. Thessalonica is outside of Macedonia.
And according to Acts 17, Paul is there just 3 weeks and the Lord starts another church.
So Paul is saying here is that during the short time after he left Macedonia, the Philippians gave to him. And as Paul is thinking about this his memory is jogged and he remembers their gift to him when he was in Thessalonica.
He says v. 15…after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 [oh yeah, that’s right…] for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
And he was in Thessalonica for just three weeks the Philippians sent a gift more than once for his needs. And that’s pretty impressive if you consider the amount time it takes to travel… They probably didn’t send it through the Macedonian express either. That’s extraordinary fellowship!
They gave at the first preaching of the gospel, from the very beginning they gave to Paul. That’s extraordinary fellowship!
Paul says no other church shared with him in the matter of giving and receiving but only the Philippians. That’s extraordinary fellowship too!
Although there could’ve been other churches that could’ve given to Paul. What about the church at Jerusalem or Antioch or Galatia… What about the church of Iconomium, or Listra or Derbe…or Antioch of Pisidia… Paul did some work on the island of Cyprus… But it is the Philippians who are giving… They are the ones who are extraordinary in their meeting needs for those in the gospel. They found out the needs and met the needs.
APP: I don’t know about you, but this is motivating to me. I want to give. I want to give to those who are in the work of Christ, who are spreading his gospel who are busy at work training men and women to reach others for Christ… I want every ounce of my being and strength, time and resources to be used to spread the gospel.
And so we need to consider, as Northlight Baptist Church, our role in giving more to the gospel, whether it be giving to missionaries overseas or giving locally in Alberta. People everywhere are dying without the gospel; we must do what we can to support others in the work of Christ.
APP: And it too often goes without saying that this giving is extraordinary fellowship … it is a fellowship of the gospel. Turn back to Phil. 1:5 real quick…
The first time this word “share” is used in this letter is in Philippians 1:5. Paul alluded to their gift when he says he’s always praying for them…
Philippians 1:5 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.
The word participation is the same word for sharing or fellowship we see back in our text this morning. And when Paul says that they are participating in the gospel “from the first day until now” he is referencing their gift to him as it says in our passage “at the first preaching of the gospel” only they shared with Paul.
So we learn that giving to gospel ministry is a sharing in, a fellowship, a partnership in the gospel itself.
When we give to this local church or to missionaries and organizations that are carrying out gospel ministry, we are participating in the gospel. We are participating in the message, the good news that the God of all glory left the glory that He had with the Father and came to earth to be born as a servant. He lived the sinless life that you could not have lived and he paid the penalty for all of your sin that you could never completely pay. He’s been raised from the dead and lives for ever and He is the Judge of the living and the dead.
And if you, you pagan, you money seeker, you pleasure lover, you God-denier, you rebel would but lay down your weapons of warfare and deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus, you’d be found in Christ and you too would be delivered from your sin and have eternal life.
When you give to truly Christian missions, you are participating in, sharing in, and having fellowship in this gospel of Jesus Christ.
TRANS: Christian giving is good, Christian giving is a fellowship…It’s a fellowship in others’ affliction and it’s a fellowship in the gospel.
But we get a number of other principles of giving from these verses as well.
Giving should begin at the beginning of the Christian life.
Number 3, giving should begin at the beginning of the Christian life. Notice what Paul says in verse 15. The Philippians “at the first preaching of the gospel” shared with Paul in the matter of giving and receiving.
From the very beginning of when Paul was there preaching the gospel to these Jews and pagans, they were giving to him. That is commendable in the sight of God.
We should apply that: Christian giving should begin the Christian life.
Now of course Paul did not demand that others pay him for his preaching. Although he taught in 1 Corinthians 9 that it is proper for a man who labors in the gospel to receive his support from his gospel ministry. But Paul does not himself demand that right. Instead for much of his ministry, he supported himself by making tents. And there were times when God’s people gave to him and Paul would devote himself entirely to the work of the ministry.
But Paul also taught the importance of giving, as he does here. And Paul’s point is that it is a commendable thing to begin giving to Christian work as soon as a Christian receives Christ. But as well for a church. As soon as a church, like the Philippian church, can begin giving to God’s work, it should do so.
TRANS: Number 4…
Giving should be regular
It is a commendable thing to give regularly. Paul says verse 16, “for even in Thessalonica you send a gift more than once for my needs.” They send it more than once. They regularly gave.
That is commendable.
ILL: I regularly care for my body everyday, brushing my teeth, eating etc. I don’t, however, regularly look after the washing of my minivan. And it shows, if you haven’t noticed.
Giving is like that. If you don’t have a plan, it doesn’t get done. Make it regular and have a plan.
Giving is to meet needs (v.16)
Number 5: Christian giving is meant to meet needs.
Paul says verse 16, “for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.”
They sent it for his needs, not necessarily for his fancies or preferences. We’re talking necessities.
We don’t give so that Christian workers can have luxury automobiles, 12 car garages and the like. We give to necessities.
TRANS: Christian giving is good, Christian giving is fellowship, giving should begin at the beginning of the Christian life, it should be regular, it should meet needs and not fund an extravagant lifestyle.
Finally, number 6 Christian giving is spiritually profitable.
Giving is spiritually profitable (v.17)
Philippians 4:17 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.
Paul has just elaborated about how giving the Philippians are. They were immediate in their giving; they gave from the very beginning of their Christian lives. They were unique in their giving; no other church was like them. And they were regular in their giving; they sent a gift more than once for Paul’s needs.
And after the one who received the gift shares that with the Philippians, what could they be thinking?
ILL: Imagine sending money to missionary and you get a thank you note back. This missionary writes to you, “you have done well in giving to me! No other church gives like you do! You give so regularly and you’ve been giving from the very beginning!”
You might think that the missionary is buttering you up for another gift!
So Paul clarifies again verse 17, “not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”
Paul did not want them to think that he is seeking material profit in his bank account. He wants them to understand that in their giving he genuinely and truly seeks for the spiritual profit which increases to their account.
Not the material profit in his account…he’s not seeking that. But he is seeking the spiritual profit in their account.
And he’s seeking that because it does profit! Their giving does increase the spiritual profit in their account. It continues to give returns. Giving to God’s work is a spiritual investment that will reap dividends for all eternity!
It’s kind of the opposite of the way we think. We think when we give we have less and they have more. But in reality and what God sees and how God responds to the situation makes it all different. When we give we actually have more, spiritually speaking.
When our church gives, we increase our spiritual profit. Daily, weekly compounding interest and increasing dividends in our bank account in heaven as it were.
Because they have given, they will experience blessings from God, both on earth and rewards in heaven.
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 and you’ll see that there are rewards.
1 Corinthians 3:5–9 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
This is speaking of those who labor for the gospel. As each one labors, they will receive their reward. God rewards labor in the gospel.
Now, if we give money to a missionary who uses that money to not only sustain his own living but to buy gospel tracts or Bibles or other materials to progress the gospel, would the Lord not give us some of the spiritual profit?
Of course He would, He’s generous! You say, “how do you know?”
Turn over to Matthew 6:4. We’ll see through these verses that the Lord rewards giving to His cause.
Matthew 6:3–4 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
The Lord rewards giving to the poor, and surely as well he rewards giving to those ministering to the poor in spirit.
Another one… turn to Matthew 10…Matthew 10 look at verse
Matthew 10:42 And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Rewards are given even to those who give a cup of cold water. One more…
Matthew 19:27–29 27 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” 28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.
If you leave everything or if you give to the Lord’s work, He’ll reward you too.
The Lord motivates you to give…give of yourself and give of your resources …He motivates you to give by the promise of reward.
So beware, whatever you do here with everything you own from your cups to money, how you use everything you own will affect you for eternity. Use everything for His glory!
If you give to His cause, He will reward.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.14-17
On the night Rowland Bingham dined with a quiet little Scotch woman whose son had gone off to the mission field, he sensed the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” That night Bingham replied, “Here am I, send me” and he knew God was calling him to Sudan.
In 1893 Sudan stretched across twenty-five hundred miles in Africa and was occupied by 60-90 million people without one missionary working among them. Missionaries had made it to the coast of Africa, but not the interior.
When Rowland Bingham sensed God’s call to go he announced to his farming community that in two weeks he was going to sail to London and then on to Africa. This was a huge step of faith for a twenty-one year-old who didn’t even have ten dollars to his name.
But God began to provide. At first it was one farmer who gave five dollars and then another. After a week Bingham had sixty dollars, not enough to get to London. Finally, a man came along who said, “I will give you all I have in the bank, and then I shall borrow more, if need be.”
This man’s generosity was enough to get Bingham and his three partners to Lagos, West Africa, but not enough to get them into the interior to reach the people of Sudan. Besides, when they arrived in Africa all the other missionaries urged them not to go to the interior of Africa. They said it was an impossible mission. They said it couldn’t be done.
Bingham and his two partners decided to pray for a whole week. They had no missions organization behind them, no team of supporters back home. And if they trekked into Africa’s interior, receiving additional supplies would be extremely difficult.
So these men prayed and began selling their possessions that were considered non-essentials, like their watches. Each man strongly believed, “I will open up Central Africa to the Gospel, or I will die in the attempt.”
In God’s providence, during that week of prayer a letter arrived in the mail from a simple housekeeper named Mary Jones. Mary Jones was a live-in housekeeper to the same family for 25 years. All she owned was in her one little room. She died there, and was buried there, a simple lady, but she had given a great amount to the cause of Christ for Sudan.
Years later Rowland Bingham would remember Mary’s sacrificial gift and write, “The gift of this servant girl came just at the moment of our greatest need and made possible that first journey up into the Sudan.” Bingham continues, “Out of that gift of fifty years ago, in a very real sense, has come the great harvest of hundreds of converts every year, which we are seeing today.”
Well, after Mary Jones’ funeral, her relatives looked for her will. There was none…only a small account book in which she had entered her monthly wage and her personal expenses. “For native work in China, $50,” was one entry. It was an investment ledger, a business ledger … “For native work in India, $50,” was another. Her relatives knew she had received an inheritance. It too was entered. “Received inheritance, $300” it read. And opposite it: “Paid out for the Sudan, $300.” “Even her last month’s wages had been entered and dispensed,” Bingham wrote. “She needed no executor, no trust company. She had fulfilled her trust. Out of her gift, in a very real sense, came the great harvest which we are seeing today.”
And when we give to God’s work today you can enter what you give on one side of the ledger…as an investment, but on the other side, leave a large section labelled ‘spiritual profit’ and watch God bless you and reward you for your giving to His cause.
Let’s turn again to 697, “O Zion haste”
Virgil Hurley, Speaker’s Sourcebook of New Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Word Publishers, 2000), 86–87. ↑
Modified from Spurgeon ↑