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;
for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. -Philippians 4:15-17, NASB
-The Philippian church involved themselves in spreading the gospel as soon as they believed, in fact they were the only ones to support Paul during this time.
-Their giving started even before he left Macedonia, while he was in Thessalonica-and they gave to him often.
-Paul is not seeking these gifts, but appreciative of them for they will bring "riches" to the Philippians.
Perhaps this is where the whole prosperity gospel gets its inspiration. If you give, God will give to you in return. I do not think that this is what Paul is saying here. I think Paul sees the gift of the Philippians as a sacrifice to God which will see a return, not in material gain, but in spiritual gain; in believers being added to their number because Paul is able to continue to share the gospel message that was entrusted to him. It is the fallen man who cares for nothing but himself. We on the other hand are made new in Christ.
It is not for personal gain that we do what we do. What must the Lord think of our motives if we give only so that God will give us more in return. I can say with certainty that Paul was NOT telling the Philippians, "God has seen what you have given to me and, get ready, He is going to give you more money than you parted with as a reward. He will give you what you need so that you will never face going without." That is not the message. The message is that even when our stomachs grumble loudly in protest for lack of food; even when we shiver in the cold for lack of a warm coat; or even when the air conditioner goes out, as ours appears to have done in this 90 degree Texas weather--God is near to us and His strength is sufficient to see us through the struggle.
I do not think God is concerned that we have that expensive car to drive or the 5,000 square foot house or all the latest and greatest fashions-these things are not needed to promote the Gospel. Neither am I saying that we need to live in rags and give up all of our material possessions. Paul was content with abundance as well. We should not fall prey to the lures of looking more spiritual by playing the pauper. A wise man I know has often said "truth lies somewhere in the middle." Paul is simply saying that whether you are in need or whether you have plenty it is God who sees you through. Do not rely on your wealth, or on the wealth of others...rely on God.
I think I am in the minority when it comes to this but I do not see tithing as a requirement for the New Testament church. That is one of the things I think the Philippians can be commended for- they sent money as often as they could because they themselves knew the joy of salvation and wanted to partner with Paul in making sure that he had what he needed so that the gospel message would continue to be preached. This kind of giving does not limit itself to 10%. This kind of giving is not looking for financial reward or prestige in the church community in return. This kind of giving expects no other blessing than the profit that comes by being a part of spreading the Good News. This is the kind of giving that Jesus alluded to in Matthew 25:14-30. What am I going to do with what God has entrusted to me? Am I going to hide it away? Am I going to invest in things that will bring God the return He is interested in: the return of people's hearts to Him?
These verses are challenging me to look at my motives, to re-evaluate how I handle my money and resources, and to think about what really matters in this life. And I need to put into action that which I know is right.
Grace, Peace, and Mercy,
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I am a woman with a Mary heart and these are my musings as I read and study God's Word
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