I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
This Sunday we skipped forward to the end of Phillipians where Paul thanks the church for their gifts and for sending him Epaphroditus. This is more meaningful and heartfelt than the formality of a thank you note. Paul is grateful for the things that he was given, but more than this he feels joy for the characteristic of generosity that God has birthed in the hearts of the people. We can learn from this passage when it comes to our own giving.When we give to the church, we are rejoiced over by our own city and by other cities that we have been able to reach out to through church plants and donations. People thank God for the work of the church and the difference that we can make in our communities. Above all though, we are rejoiced over by Jesus. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’Giving to the poor is a fragrant offering to God and it pleases Him. In the book of Amos we see that God hates the worship of the Israelites, though they give Him offerings and partake in religious festivals, because they do not care for the poor. He even says it is a ‘stench’ to Him. A real relationship with God transforms a person’s view of others. The way that we treat people is not disconnected from our relationship with God and so it is an important part of our worship.So how do we give? We give cheerfully because it is a privilege to be able to play a part in supporting others and growing God's kingdom. We give continuously without becoming weary because we trust that God is good and His mercies are new every morning. We give when opportunities arise; when we see someone in need. A great opportunity is to give into the gift day to support the vulnerable in our city.God is omnipotent, He controls everything and everything belongs to Him. He doesn’t need our help but He loves to involve us so that we can share in the joy of being a blessing. Acts 20:35 says ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ A study at Harvard university in 2014 showed this to be true, that people experience more joy when they are generous.In this season many people already feel like they are lacking and so it can be difficult to give. Paul knew lack, yet he also knew the secret to contentment. He says, ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ Christ is with us in every situation, giving us all that we need and when we lean on Him, we can trust that He will bring us through. Like Paul, Jesus also knows what it is like to go from abundance and wealth to having nothing. He came down to earth and was born as a helpless baby so that He can now empathise with our struggles and give us the comfort that we need. We find comfort in Him.