“Principles of Christian Giving Part 2”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.18-23
For the final time, I invite you to Philippians chapter 4. This is our final message in Philippians and I have quite a bit of ground to cover, so if you try to stay with me, I know the Lord has His blessing for you.
It was about 850 BC, a woman from Shunem in Israel, invited Elisha the prophet and his servant Gehazi over for a meal. He accepted and whenever he passed by that way, he would eat with her and her husband.
And the Shunemite woman then asked her husband if they could bless the prophet even more and make an upper chamber completely furnished so that when the prophet comes he always has a place to stay.
And they did. Overwhelmed with their gracious hospitality, Elisha asks the woman, “you’ve been so good to us, what can I do for you?” And Gehazi says to Elisha, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.”
And Elisha says to the woman, “this time next year you will have a son.” And indeed the woman conceived and bore a son just as Elisha told her. The birth of that boy, you could know, was a far greater blessing for her than she thought she’d been to Elisha. The giver was blessed with an even greater gift from God!
Now, the giver is tested. That boy grew and was one day working with his dad out in the field, and he complained of a headache. His father had one of the servants carry him to his mother. He sat on his mother’s lap until noon and then died.
Out of her great grief, she knew to turn to the man of God Elisha. She went all the way to Mt. Carmel, a 2 day’s journey. She arrives, grabs ahold of the feet of Elisha and says, “Did I ask for a son from my lord?”
Elisha knew from just that, that the boy was in trouble. Elisha sends Gehazi his servant that 2 day journey and has Gehazi put Elisha’s staff on his face, but the boy didn’t awake. Elisha himself then goes to the house, by this time it had been 6 days since the boy died. The boy was placed on the bed in Elisha’s prophet’s chamber. He goes in and he lays down on the child, putting his mouth on the boy’s mouth and his eyes on the boy’s eyes, as well as his hands, and boy became warm. Elisha then paces the house and comes back and repeats the process and the boy sneezes 7 times and opens his eyes and the boy was raised from the dead.
And Elisha gave her son back to her.
God gives to those who give to His cause, but in this case, not without trial. The well-to-do lady gave to the Lord’s cause and the Lord blessed her by giving her a son…and then giving her back her son after he had died! God is generous, but not without testing.
That story makes the larger point this morning: God is generous to those who give generously. We’ll see that more in our final point this morning.
But we’re talking about giving in Philippians 4. And this is our last message after having preached through the entirety of this book. Today is part 2 on Principles of Christian Giving.
We noted last time that Christian giving is good (v.14), Christian giving is a fellowship (from the word ‘share’ in vv.14, 15, which has the idea of fellowship or partnership), Christian giving should begin the Christian life (v.15, since the Philippians gave from the first preaching of the gospel), Christian giving should be regular (v.16 the Philippians gave more than once), it should meet needs (v.16, they gave to meet Paul’s needs), and Christian giving is spiritually profitable (v.17).
That brings us to verses 18-19 where we additional principles of Christian giving. And we’ll leave vv. 20-23 for the conclusion.
Philippians 4:18–19 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.
In these verses we have a little more of the story of the Philippians’ gift to Paul while he’s in prison. Epaphroditus made the long journey from what is modern-day Greece to Rome in Italy to deliver the Macedonian gift to Paul. And Paul, who is about finished writing this letter, will then send this letter back to Philippi in the hand of Epaphroditus.
And throughout this section as we’ve noted, Paul is walking a tight rope. In verse 10 he wants to sincerely thank them for their concern for him, but he doesn’t want to show desperation for money, verse 11, so he expresses his contentment, but verse 14 he doesn’t want them to think from his contentment that their giving was pointless, so he tells them that they have done well to partner with him in the gospel.
And so he elaborates on how well they’ve been giving …which also could be taken the wrong way … so to clarify that he’s not buttering them up for another gift, verse 17 he says he doesn’t seek the gift itself but for their spiritual profit.
Paul is careful with his words especially when there is a sensitive issue and so ought we be careful with ours.
But we also have in verses 18-19 additional principles of giving.
I. Christian giving is generous (v. 18a)
First, Christian giving is generous.
Philippians 4:18 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied…
Paul continues to walk the tightrope. In verses 14-16, Paul elaborated on how good it was for them to give. So Paul clarified in verse 17 that he wasn’t buttering them up for another gift … that he did not seek the gift itself, but their spiritual profit when they give.
And somebody could be thinking … “yeah right, sure you seek the profit to my account. You know, that’s really buttering me up for another gift!” Nope, Paul says v.18, Indeed “I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied…” I’m doing well now, for sure!
With 4 different expressions Paul emphasizes that he is well taken care of. He says, “I have received everything.” He says that he has received the gift “in full.” Thirdly he has “an abundance.” And four, he is “amply supplied.”
Everything, in full, in abundance, amply supplied. Four different expressions emphasizing that Paul is well provided for now through the Philippians gift.
Which is surprising, because you wouldn’t expect that the Philippians be giving very much, since we know that they gave out of their poverty. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 8. I alluded to this passage last time, but I want you to see it. What we’ll see in 2 Co. 8 is that the Philippians gave to the gospel of Christ out of great trial and poverty and that it was generous.
2 Corinthians 8:1–5 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia [that’s the Philippians], 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction [they are in a deep trial, persecution] their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. [they gave out of great joy although they are in deep poverty] 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability [they gave generously], they gave of their own accord [they gave willingly], 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, [they begged to be able give] 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
So if the Philippians are giving out of their poverty, how much do you think they were actually able to give to Paul? Probably not very much.
But they gave what they could, yes, even beyond what they were able. So there giving is generous. Christian giving is generous.
But we have to ask that if someone is in a deep trial of persecution and they are in deep poverty why on earth would they ask, yes even beg the apostle that they might give and to be able to give generously even beyond their ability?
Are they duped? Are they deceived? Did the apostle Paul wrangle them out of their money?
By no means! These Philippians are motivated and empowered by the glorious gospel of Christ! They put their treasure where their heart is! They fully trust in Jesus Christ, they have turned their backs on the fleeting pleasures of this world, they denied themselves took up their cross and Jesus has saved them and changed their lives and given them love, joy, and peace they’ve never known before …and eternal life…. And so because of that, they want to give!
ILL: On one occasion in the life of Jesus, someone in the crowd says to him Luke 12:13 … “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
Jesus responds, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
And then He turns to the crowd and says, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
And we today have an abundance and how many people today view their life as being made up of what they possess? When a man dies someone may ask, “how much was he worth?” What was his land worth, his possessions, how much debt was he in?
But surely life is more than the things you possess!
As that famous line says from Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Those empowered by the gospel, the saving-from all sin gospel, the Holy Spirit giving gospel, the gospel of Christ that wonderful message of eternal life, everlasting life for those who repent and trust Him…those empowered by that good news give what they know that can’t keep…their life and possessions…and they by doing so, they gain rewards for all eternity …things that they cannot lose.
As only Jesus can do, to illustrate that a man’s life is not made up of what he owns, he gives the parable of the rich farmer who says to himself after a very productive year, “what shall I do, I can’t store all my crops? I know, I will tear down my barns and build larger ones and then I would say to myself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” But,… Jesus continues…God says to him, “you fool! This very night that soul of yours is required [he’s dead tonight] and then who will own all this?” Jesus concludes, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
APP: Be rich toward God! One way to do that is to put your money where you know your heart needs to be more and more: lay up treasures in heaven.
And you can do that by giving to the work of the Lord through our assembly here or through truly Christian ministries around the world. And Lord willing as we continue to give here, we ourselves can look forward to supporting our first missionary, which would be very exciting, but we’ll have to give with that in mind.
TRANS: Christian giving is generous. Secondly, Christian giving is sacrificial worship.
II. Christian giving is sacrificial worship (v. 18b)
Verse 18 contains the third analogy that Paul uses to describe their giving and their gift. He described their giving in verse 10 in terms of a flourishing fruit tree. He says that they “revived” or made to flourish like a fruit tree their concern for him.
Paul compared their gift in verse 17 to an investment. He said “I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Christian giving is an eternal investment that reaps dividends for ever.
And now the third analogy. Paul compares Christian giving to the sacrificial worship of the Old Testament.
Philippians 4:18 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, [notice how their gift is described…] a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
Paul describes their sacrificial worship in 3 ways: a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God, each of which is sacrificial language drawn from the Old Testament. Just like animal sacrifices in the Old Testament are a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God, so also is the Philippians financial gift to Paul to carry on the gospel a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God
Both Old Testament animal sacrifices and the Philippians gift was a fragrant aroma.
Fragrant aroma: “Fragrant aroma”…that phrase was used to describe Noah’s sacrifice after they came out of the ark. Noah builds the altar and sacrifices on it and Genesis 8:20 says, “the Lord smelled the fragrant aroma and said he would never again curse the ground because of man.”
And the phrase is used in Exodus 29:18 to describe the whole burnt offering that it is, “a soothing aroma.”
Lev. 6:21 “fragrant aroma” describes the grain offering.
Acceptable sacrifice: It is the same with acceptable sacrifice. Leviticus 22:21 describes offering the peace offering and, for it to be an acceptable sacrifice, it must be perfect, without a blemish in it.
And that fact shows that Israel was commanded by God to offer animal sacrifices not only to cover sin, but the sacrifice must cost them something. They couldn’t just take the diseased, lame and blind animals. Malachi 1:8 “But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer [a sick animal] to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts.
God didn’t accept a sacrifice of the blind animals because it didn’t cost the giver.
Your giving must cost you something, too. For it to be acceptable, it must cost you something. If it is accepted, then next….it pleases the Lord.
Pleasure of God: The Philippians’ gift was accepted by God and so it was ‘well-pleasing to God.’ Their gift was sacrificial worship in keeping with the worshipful acceptable sacrifices of the Old Testament.
Not only must it cost you something, but another principle in the Old Testament regarding whether or not a sacrifice pleased God is that, especially in the prophets, that God is not pleased with their sacrifices when they are living in clear, unrepentant sin.
For example in Isaiah 1, the people of Israel are called a sinful nation, a people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers. They have abandoned the Lord.
And then the word of the Lord is addressed to the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah… referring to the people of Israel and God rejects their multiplied sacrifices to Him and He says …
Isaiah 1:11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
Isaiah 1:16–17 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
In other words, what good is giving to the Lord’s work if you are living in unrepentant sin? That sacrifice is not well-pleasing to God! But the Philippians’ gift of money was well-pleasing to God because they gave sacrificially out of a desire to honor the Lord for His sacrifice in Christ.
APP: So, repent of your sin, turn from what is displeasing to Him in order to offer Him an acceptable sacrifice of your wealth to His cause.
Allow me to fill out the Bible’s teaching on sacrifices today. The Bible teaches that disciples of Jesus are priests to God. Not just selected individuals are priests to God. The Bible says in Revelation 1:6 that each disciple of Jesus is a priest to God.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Through [Jesus] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Not only as priests to God do we offer up the sacrifice of our wealth, but the sacrifice of our lips and of doing good and sharing.
But it goes further than that even, because in Ro. 12:1, we’re told …
Romans 12:1 1 … by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
And none of this is to be taken lightly. That’s because this sacrificial language is the exact same language used to describe Jesus’ sacrifice…
Ephesians 5:2 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
So none of our sacrifices, whether it’s giving, doing good, sharing, or praising God … none of our sacrifices should be taken lightly because our sacrifice can be accepted just like Jesus sacrifice of Himself is accepted!
And how important is the sacrifice of Christ? Jesus Christ, God from all of eternity, born sinless, lived sinless, and died on the cruel cross with your sin on his shoulders, the righteous dies for the unrighteous, taking on Himself the full wrath of God that was due to you, Jesus took that anger of God upon Himself and extinguished it. That’s effective for you only if you repent and trust in Him.
And that death was an acceptable sacrifice. God the Father received the sacrifice that Jesus, God the Son, made for the sin of the whole world. And it was a one time sacrifice, never needing to be repeated again.
That’s an important sacrifice. And our service to Christ, our giving, our speaking, our doing good, our presentation of our bodies, part by part…is also an important sacrifice. Our sacrifices can be just as accepted by Him as the sacrifice of Jesus Christ if we turn from our sin everyday and live a life of repentance, and seek to give, share, do good, and speak all for Jesus’ glory and for the spread of His fame.
Christian giving is sacrificial worship that pleases God.
APP: That means that as we give, we should give in order to worship the Lord. Giving is an act of worship. When we have an opportunity to give each Sunday, as you give you should give out of an act of worship to God, ascribing unto Him the worth due Him. You shouldn’t take giving lightly, but prayerfully give as the Lord has given you ability.
TRANS: Christian giving is generous, Christian giving is sacrificial worship. Finally …
III. Christian giving opens God’s riches (v. 19)
Christian giving opens God’s riches…
Philippians 4:19 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
What happens when we give? Is it that we are less off and they are well off? If I give according to my ability and at the same time even beyond my ability, in other words, if I give reasonably but generously, won’t I lack?
Not at all! God promises to supply, to meet all your needs if you give sacrificially to His cause! He says verse 19 that God will supply all your needs.
Paul used that word before in verse 18 when he says, “I am amply supplied, or filled.” And now he says that your needs will be supplied, or fulfilled by God.
God will meet your needs!
But this is not a promise given to just anybody. This is a promise given to a church which gives sacrificially and generously to the spread of the gospel.
-God Gives to those who Give to His cause-
Christian giving opens up the riches of God
Before you think I’m going to preach prosperity theology, listen to these verses…
Proverbs 3:9–10 9 Honor the Lord from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; 10 [why?] So [that] your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.
Malachi 3:10 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
Somebody says, well that’s just the Old Covenant. We’re no longer under the Old Covenant we’re under the New Covenant. Ok…
Luke 6:38 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.”
God is materially generous to those who are materially generous.
ILL: many of us have gone berry picking lately. If you go and pick saskatoon berries and raspberries by the pail, you’ll want to get as much for your money as possible. You take that pail filled up with raspberries and as you fill it up you’ll shake it so that you can get more in there. You’ll maybe even gently press it down to get as much in there and by the time you get it to your vehicle, it will be running over….Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
That’s the way God will be toward you if you are generous toward His work. He is generous toward those who give.
And this is where that saying comes from that “You can’t out give God.” God will be a debtor to no man. If you give to Him and His cause, He gives to you in return.
Now, the question is for what purpose does He give to givers? This is where we differentiate between the health and wealth, prosperity gospel and the Bible’s teaching.
Prosperity theology teaches that if you, a sick and money-strapped idolater, give money to God by way of the wealthy, bentley-driving preacher, that God will give you money in return, get you out of debt, and heal your sicknesses. And you can use that money for whatever you like, to buy yourself a Bentley for example.
The Bible doesn’t teach that since God gives to those who are givers to His cause, that you can do whatever you want with that money.
The Bible teaches that God gives to those who give here it is…so that they can give yet again.
Turn to 2 Co. 9. The context here is giving to God’s people who are in need. Paul is taking up a collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem. And what we learn in 2 Co. 9 is that God gives to those who give so that they in turn give yet again.
2 Corinthians 9:6 6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
ILL: Every farmer knows this principle. If you plant a few seeds you will have a little harvest but if you plant many seeds you will have a large harvest.
But if the farmer has tons of seed and he only sows a tiny fraction of his seed, he seems to have misunderstood why he has the seed in the first place!
The purpose of the seed is not to hoard it, but to give it to the ground.
The farmer who is wise, then, would take his seed and sow it carefully and bountifully, making sure to get the most on his return.
Just like the very purpose of seed is to give it to the ground, so also the very purpose of money is for giving…giving to His cause, meeting needs, being generous, giving for His purposes. But you sure aren’t going to take your money to heaven with you; use money to gain eternal rewards.
Christian giving God gives to those who give so that they can give yet again. God gives to those who give, so that they can keep on giving.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; [God gives to those who give…He wants those who give to have an abundance for every good work] 9 as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing [He will supply your seed for sowing, your money for giving!] and increase the harvest of your [personal wealth? Your life of luxury? No … he supplies you with seed, with money, to increase the harvest of your] righteousness [God will increase the harvest of your righteousness if you learn to give to His causes in the earth. He will do that by giving back to you materially so that you can give again. … if you do that….]; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.
Turn back to Phil. 4:19. And God supplies, He fills your needs…you generous disciples of Jesus…he meets your needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
He meets needs out of His riches, but it’s more than that. He meets the needs of giving disciples of Jesus according to His riches in glory in Christ.
That’s the standard by which He meets your needs. He meets your needs on a scale worthy of His wealth.
When you give generously and this principle becomes true for you, people will look on and know that it is God who has blessed you, because you can keep on giving.
-Conclusion to Philippians-
The only appropriate way to conclude a letter of this nature is to praise God…and say goodbye… and to tell others you say hello…
Philippians 4:20–23 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. [this would include Timothy] 22 All the saints greet you [those saints who are in Rome], especially those of Caesar’s household. [We know that Paul didn’t waste his time in between 2 chained soldiers in Caesar’s household, but told them of the miracles he’d seen and performed and how Jesus saves.] 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.18-23
Let me conclude by answering the question, “how much should I give?” Should I give 10%, a tithe?
The word tithe comes from the old English word for a tenth. It predates the Mosaic law when in Genesis 14:20, Abraham gives a tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek. Jews gave a tenth of their crops and herds to the Levites who owned no land. But that’s just the Levitical tithe.
There was also the festival tithe, which was 10 percent of a person’s remaining income after the Levitical tithe. Then there was the poor tithe, which wasn’t another tenth, but 3.5 percent of a person’s income. This totals to 22.3 percent of a person’s income. Or it could be slightly different depending on how you add it all up.
But the point is the Jews never gave just 10%, they gave significantly more than that. And of course that’s the Old Testament requirement for a nation, not a church.
But when we come to the New Testament, we read of no requirement to give 10%. The Old Testament tells us to give 10% to the Levites. Try doing that today! We have no Levites here!
Under the law of Christ, we are not commanded to give 10%. So what is the principle?
Turn quickly to…
Mark 12:41–44 41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Jesus praises the woman who gave more than all the contributors. What do you mean she gave more? She only gave two copper coins. That’s not technically more than the other contributors. It is, however, in the sense of how Jesus explains in verse 44 that she gave out of her poverty she put in all she owned. So it’s not what percentage of your annual income you give, then is it? But it is how much you give in relationship to how much you own that matters.
Jesus praises the woman who gave 100% of what she owned, not just 100% of what she made that year. So, one could argue that our giving should be based on a percentage of what we own.
But commanding that can be rather difficult, and Jesus doesn’t command give 100%. Before the Lord, then, you need to consider what He would have you to give.
And as the Lord moves us one day to give not only to the needs here, but also to missionaries around the world, we can be sure that if we give generously, sacrificially and worshipfully, we can be sure that He will give back to us so that we can keep on giving to His work.
Do you remember the wealthy, giving Shunamite woman we opened the sermon with? After receiving a son because of her generosity, Elisha told her to leave the land of Israel because there was a seven-year famine coming. So this generous woman is tested again! Should she abandon her land?
She does, but at great cost. Who knows who will take her land? So, when she came back 7 years later to get her land, she approaches King Joram…right when Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, is telling King Joram about Elisha’s miracle of resurrecting the Shunamite woman’s boy. Gehazi turns around and says, “This is the woman and this is her son that Elisha raised from the dead.” The king declares to his official, “Give back all her land to her including all the income from her land from the day she left the until today.”
She got not only her land back, but also the 7 years of income from the land while she was gone!
She simply gives meals to Elijah, builds him a prophet chamber in her own house. But God gives to her a son, and then raised that son from the dead. God gave her advanced warning of that 7 year famine, but God gave her land back plus 7 years of income!
And if you give to God’s work, He’ll make sure you have plenty to give as well! If you give 5 loaves and 2 fish, when it’s all said and done, thousands will be fed and there will be 12 baskets left over. If you like Peter, give your boat for preaching, Jesus will fill it up with fish when He’s finished. If you give your upper room for a prayer meeting, He knows how to fill it up with the Holy Spirit.
God will take care of you! He will repay … abundantly repay everything you spend on Him and His cause.