A fragrant aroma
This passage is one of the most instructive passages regarding money in the New Testament. The end of this letter is more or less a simple thank you note to the Philippian church, but it throws back the curtains to show the secret of Paul’s contentment in Christ. The passage does not need a great deal of commentary, but let us just look at a few things that have been a challenge and encouragement to me. I hope your financial insight is deepened as well:
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
The Philippian believers were paying attention. They walked a little in Paul’s shoes and recognized that he needed help. Then they started to look for an opportunity to help.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity;
Think about the times in your life when you have been the most happy. Chances are, many of those happy memories happened when you did not have a great deal of cash. Paul has learned how to be content in every situation – and if you know anything about the life of Paul, you know that physical comfort was rarely a part of the equation. This was a guy who was stoned, beaten, imprisoned and shipwrecked on a regular basis. He did not own his own home, he walked everywhere he went, had no health insurance and did not have a regular paycheck. He fully depended on God for every necessity of life.
I think the most important lesson to be learned is that we can survive on a whole lot less than we think we can.
In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Now we move to one of the most abused quotations in all of Scripture: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”. We have all heard this promised used for everything from athletic events to tasks at work to musical performances to cooking a meal. However, when we stop to consider the context, we realize that Paul was talking specifically about money!
This is not a promise that I can ask out a pretty girl or figure out a complicated computer program or dunk a basketball. Paul is saying that the key to contentment does not lie in having financial security, but rather in realizing that God can meet our every need – whether we have money or not. He is not bound by impossible financial straits. He can clothe, feed, and shelter you even if you have no money – and if you don’t have those things, He is still enough.
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. 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.
Paul is commending the Philippians for their generosity – a generosity that was not shared by any of the other churches in which Paul ministered. It is important to see that Paul was not a televangelist who “needs” your money – shyster who is getting rich off the goodwill of well-meaning people. No, Paul knew that God did not need money to care for his needs, but he was happy that the Philippian church was investing in his ministry and sharing in the blessing that comes from giving.
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.
Have you ever given someone the perfect gift? The gift that hits exactly the right balance between utility and luxury, the gift that the person uses for years to follow? Remember that feeling? That is how Paul wants the Philippian church to feel. He called their gift a “fragrant aroma”. It is a great compliment when someone tells you that you smell good.
How do you think the church responded after Paul’s words? I like to think that they were challenged to find more ways to give to others.
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Once again, the believer in Christ can have absolute confidence that God will meet his needs. There is no problem, financial or otherwise that God cannot handle. He will always give us what we need – and what we need is fodder for another post!
Article by Stew
Photo by Vanessa Pike-Russell