Giving and Receiving
by Jack Wald | June 16th, 2019

Philippians 4:10-20

When I was 11 or 12, I went to Boy Scout camp and in order to get into the mess hall for lunch one day, we had to bring a postcard to send to our parents. My parents saved the postcard I handed in and I have it somewhere. It says, “Dear Mom and Dad, I have to write this postcard in order to have lunch. Love, Jackie”

I had to write thank you notes to my aunts and grandparents who sent me gifts for my birthday or Christmas (only five days apart). I would write something like this: “Dear Mama, Thank you for the socks you sent. I like them a lot. Love, Jackie”

Jackie was what I was called when I was young and when I had to write a note, I did not waste time. I went straight to the point, expressed the minimum of what I had to say, and closed the letter.

Fortunately for us, Paul did not write like I did when I was young. When Paul was in prison in Rome, he received a visit from Epaphroditus, a member of the Philippian church, who brought news from Philippi along with a financial gift.

Paul wrote a “thank you” letter for Epaphroditus to take back with him, but it was much more than a “thank you” letter. There are 104 verses in Philippians – Paul only wrote ten verses at the end of the letter to thank them for their gift.

This means that the purpose of writing was not simply to thank the Philippian church for their gift. Paul wrote, responding to the news that Epaphroditus brought with him, and then thanked them for their gift.

As we come to the end of Paul’s Philippians letter, let me run through what Paul wrote in these ten verses and then share some lessons about giving and some lessons about receiving.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

It had been several years since the Philippian church had sent Paul a financial gift. Paul is not saying, “at last you have done what you should have done earlier.” Paul is clear that he understands that they wanted to send him a financial gift but had not been able to do this earlier. “Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” When Epaphroditus arrived with his news and the financial gift for Paul, Paul burst into joy at the renewal of their friendship.

Remember that Paul was sitting in a Roman prison cell when he received the visit from Epaphroditus. Paul needed encouragement and this visit and gift was like a cool cup of water on a hot, sweltering day.

verse 11
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in the early 3rd century BC. Part of the teaching of Stoicism is that the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself and by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain.

So in modern English, a stoic is a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.

The culture of Philippi was very familiar with Stoicism and Paul plays with this in his letter. Paul is not saying he is self-sufficient like the Stoics. Paul is not saying he does not need anything. In these verses Paul is saying that both he and the Philippian believers are dependent on Christ and therefore able to help each other. Paul practices Christ-sufficiency, not the Stoic philosophy of self-sufficiency.

Paul has just written in Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything,” and now he offers himself as a model of this. Paul was not sitting in his prison cell fretting and worrying about where he was going to get the funds he needed. Paul offered himself as a model of what it means to have contentment in all circumstances.

verse 12
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Paul experienced being in need and he experienced an abundance of what he needed. Paul sometimes went without food. Sometimes he feasted. Sometimes he slept on the open ground and sometimes he slept in the bedroom of a fancy home.

Paul had learned to accept whatever came his way, knowing that his life was not determined by having either a little or a lot. All that mattered to Paul was his life with Christ. To live in poverty or to live in luxury was irrelevant to Paul.

verse 13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Paul turns the self-sufficiency of the Stoics into the Christ-sufficiency of followers of Jesus.

My mother was critical of my faith in Jesus. She would tell me, “Why can’t you stand up on your own two feet? Why do you have to depend on Jesus?” What she was not aware of was that she was not standing up very well on her two feet. She was not aware of the emptiness of her life. She needed Jesus just as much as I did. We all need the love and strength of Jesus in our lives.

Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” These were not empty words of Paul; these were his words of life. Paul kept his eyes on the prize. Through all he suffered and endured, he kept his eyes on the prize that awaited him in heaven. Paul was not distracted by worldly temptations. He pressed forward. He strained toward what is ahead.

He lived his live in complete submission to Jesus, rejecting ego, wealth, and power as inferior replacements.

verse 14
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

Paul’s emphasis was not on the gift; it was on the friendship that was renewed with this gift. Paul’s friendship with the church in Philippi is seen in verse 10 as well. “at last you renewed your concern for me” They cared for Paul. They were concerned when they heard he was in prison.

The Philippian church had their own troubles, severe persecution, but they sent a gift of love and friendship to Paul who was having his troubles, sitting in a Roman prison. Paul was grateful for their friendship expressed in a tangible way.

verses 15-16
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

Paul thanks them for their long partnership with him in spreading the gospel. From the earliest days of their friendship, they shared with him. When Paul was forced to leave Philippi he went south to Thessalonica and even after the short duration of his time in Philippi, they sent him financial gifts to support him when he preached in Thessalonica.

Because of the many itinerant religious and philosophical hucksters/peddlers in Thessalonica, Paul did not accept money from them. The same was true in Corinth and the other churches. His relationship with the church in Philippi was unique; they were the only ones he allowed to support himself financially.

It is testimony to his relationship with the Philippian church that he did not think accepting a gift would compromise the gospel he preached to them.

verse 17
Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.

Paul is not thanking them so they will be inclined to send another financial gift. Paul wants the Philippian church to receive the blessing of giving toward the work of the gospel. They sent the gift of money to Paul and Paul is grateful, but he wants them to understand that their giving is testimony to their spiritual health. A church that gives is a church that knows it is blessed. Weak churches hold on to money; spiritually healthy churches give generously.

verse 18
I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Paul viewed the gift the church in Philippi sent as an offering given to God. Yes, the money would be used for Paul’s needs in his prison cell and undoubtedly for needs in the ministry now being carried out by Paul’s ministry team. But Paul was clear that this was not a gift for the ministry, it was a gift given to God.

verse 19
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

God is the one who gives good gifts. The Philippian church gave Paul a gift but it is God who provided for Paul and God will also provide for the church in Philippi. Both the giver and the receiver are dependent on God for what they need.

verse 20
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

This discussion of his long relationship with the church in Philippi led Paul to burst out with praise to God.

What are some lessons for giving and receiving that come out of this?

In talking about lessons about giving and receiving, I will talk about the ideal. I know that the reality is often some distance from the ideal, but the ideal is what we should be striving for. Did Paul live up to the ideals he talks about in this letter? I think he came closer than most of us. Paul did not have a home, a family, or a retirement account. Paul did not accumulate possessions. He lived from day to day, moment by moment. His circumstances continually changed and he could not have been happy about some of the circumstances he faced, but he kept his baggage light and adapted to his changing circumstances.

I do not believe we are all called to live like Paul lived, but the way he lived, he was better able to live up to the ideal than we are. Most of us carry a lot more baggage than Paul did, but the ideal is still what we should be aiming for. With this said, let me get to some lessons about giving and receiving.

First, giving is tangible evidence of friendship and builds that friendship.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

Paul had a more intimate and personal relationship with the Philippian church than he did with other churches he planted, even though he spent more time with other churches than he did in Philippi. What built that intimate friendship? Is it the fact that they were the only church to support him financially that made them so close? Or was it their closeness that led them to support him. I think it is both.

People in ministry need encouragement. Paul greatly rejoiced in the renewal of the Phillipian church’s concern for him. The gift helped with his expenses but it also lifted his heart. Those who receive the gift are encouraged which deepens the friendship. Among all the people in the world asking for financial support, you were chosen to receive a gift from this person. That is encouraging.

For my first ten years at RIC I supported myself from the proceeds of the sale of my business. But then with the dramatic fall of the stock market and the decline of the dollar, too much of my assets were gone and I faced a choice. I could return to the US and begin earning a salary, or I could begin raising support for my ministry in Rabat. So in 2010 I began going back to the US for three or four weeks each year to travel around the country visiting churches and friends to let them know what was happening in Morocco and offer them the opportunity to be a financial supporter of my ministry.

On my first trip in 2010 I talked about what was happening in Morocco and made stumbling appeals for people to support me. I had read the books on how to raise support and tried to do what the books told me to do. But I was very uncomfortable doing this. It made me feel like the people I talked with were ATM machines and if I punched in the proper code, said the right words, they would hand me twenty dollar bills.

So the second year I simply shared what was happening in Morocco. I did not make an appeal for people to support me financially. Occasionally someone would ask me about my support and then I would answer the question, but that was all.

I told people about opportunities to support ministries and projects in Morocco. I told them that only God has a heart big enough to care for all the countries of the world. We, as limited beings, have to choose which countries and what projects to support. I told them the only obligation they had was to support the ministries God put on their heart. I encouraged those whose heart was drawn to Morocco to support ministries and projects in Morocco. I love advocating for others and encouraging people to support ministries I think deserve support.

Over the ten years I have visited churches and friends in the US, only once has anyone come up to me during the trip and told me they want to support me. But each year, without my asking, donations come in the months that follow my visit to meet my needs.

I have been amazed and humbled by who supports me. A number of people who had been at RIC and them moved away began to support me and I was greatly encouraged by this. These were people who knew me and the ministry in Morocco and chose to support me financially. Some friends who had worked overseas as missionaries began to support me. These people knew the good, the bad, and the ugly of missionaries and it is an honor to receive gifts from these people. To receive these gifts continues to be encouraging, affirming, and humbling.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about storing treasures in heaven, not on earth. And he concluded by saying, (Matthew 6:19–21)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My experience is that this is true about where we spend our money on earth. Our heart follows our money. Over the years Annie and I have supported a number of friends who are in ministry around the world. Sending our financial donations to their account each month made our friendship more meaningful. This meant that we received their periodic newsletters. When they came back to the US we met with them.

You can look at this cynically and say that the friendship is there because of the exchange of money, and there might be some truth in that, but it is also true that when our friendship is backed up in tangible ways, money or otherwise, it deepens that friendship.

Giving is tangible evidence of friendship and builds that friendship. Second, when you give you receive the blessing of giving.

Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 

Paul understood that giving gave a blessing to the Philippian church.

In this life we are torn between the riches and rewards of this life and the riches and rewards of our eternal life. When we long for, lust for the material things of this life, they grab hold of us. Our possessions can own us.

In the gospels we read about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and went away sad because he was not able to let go of his wealth. There is also the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who gave away much of his wealth and feasted with Jesus.

Zacchaeus gave exuberantly from his heart; the rich young ruler held on tightly to what he owned. The wealth of the rich young ruler had power over him and he went away sad. Zacchaeus gave away what had power over him and went away rejoicing.

I met a man during the years when I was in business. He was a follower of Jesus and was a descendant of the first English pilgrims who came to the US in 1620 on the ship “The Mayflower”. His ancestors were wealthy and their furniture had been passed down from generation to generation and it was now his responsibility to care for these heirlooms. We met in his large house for a Bible study but the furniture was not very comfortable. The furniture belonged in a museum, not a home. In fact, his home was a museum. He was not a happy man. He was not free and at ease. He was filled with anxiety that he would not earn enough money to continue to have a home that could protect all this furniture. I went away feeling sad for him. His family possessions made him a prisoner in his own home. I thought how much better he would feel if he donated all the furniture to a museum and then started to live.

Giving away the money we possess and sharing what we own sets us free. It liberates us.

Richard J. Foster writes in his book, The Challenge of the Disciplined Life,
“When we let go of money we are letting go of part of ourselves and part of our security. But this is precisely why it is important to do it. It is one way to obey Jesus’ command to deny ourselves … When we give money we are releasing a little more of our egocentric selves and a little more of our false security … Giving frees us to care. It produces an air of expectancy as we anticipate what God will lead us to give. It makes life with God an adventure in the world, and that is worth living for and giving for.”

Sharing our possessions and giving money is a sign of a healthy spirituality. I said earlier that a church is generous in its giving is a spiritually healthy church. The same is true for a person. When we hold on to what we have, worry we won’t have enough, our heart is not in a good place. A spiritually healthy person is a person who is generous with his or her money and possessions.

Giving is tangible evidence of friendship and builds that friendship. When you give you receive the blessing of giving. Third, when we give a gift to a church, ministry, or a person working in ministry, that gift is given to God, not the church, ministry, or person. The gift is entrusted to the church or person, but the gift is given to God.

They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 

In Luke 8, Luke writes about Jesus traveling through Palestine, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Then Luke lists those who traveled with him. (Luke 8:1–3)
The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.

Twelve men and some women, among them Mary, Joanna, and Susanna. Who paid for the food and other things this group needed? I love the detail Luke adds.
These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

What a privilege to be able to use the money you have to support the ministry of Jesus.

You can’t go back in time and give Jesus money for clothing, food, and shelter, but what Paul is saying is that when you give gifts to those who are working for Jesus in the world, you are supporting Jesus. Your gift is given to a person or a church or some other Christian mission, but the gift goes to Jesus.

What are some lessons for receiving gifts that come out of this passage?

First, The gifts we receive are not paychecks. They are offerings made to God and we are the steward of those gifts. This should motivate us to not squander those gifts. We need to honor those offerings to God by living our lives in ministry with dedication and integrity.

Second, a gift that is given to support you in your ministry is an expression of encouragement and friendship, not money to help you because you are in need.

I know that there are many reasons why people give and not all of those reasons will be good or healthy motivations. But when we receive a gift, we should receive it as an expression of encouragement and friendship.

If we receive a gift as though it was a response to our need, then we reduce the gift to a financial transaction. The people and churches that support us become banks rather than friends.

In order to make this possible, the goal for those of us who receive support for our ministry should be to be willing and able to adapt to our changing circumstances. The temptation is to set an expectation of a lifestyle we want to live and then expect people to give gifts to us so we get to that level. Rather than adapt to changing circumstances, we focus on what we need to maintain what we are doing. When we can adapt to changing circumstances, can be content in all situations, then we can have a healthier view of those who support us.

Those who support us are friends, not financial institutionss

The gifts we receive are not paychecks. They are offerings made to God and we are the steward of those gifts. A gift that is given to support you in your ministry is an expression of encouragement and friendship, not money to help you because you are in need. Third, we who receive depend on God for what we need, not the people who support us.

Paul was in a dependant relationship with God. He looked to God for what he needed. Paul did not look to the Philippians or any other person for the finances he needed.

Paul wrote to the Philippians
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Paul was able to say this to them because he had learned this lesson himself.

The problem with looking to people to supply our needs is that when our needs are not being met, we will blame people. Looking to people to supply our needs destroys the friendship that giving builds.

I learned so much from Uchenna Anyanwu who worked with me in the association of churches RIC is a part of. Uchenna is from Nigeria and came to Morocco to love people in the name of Jesus. He was deported in 2010 and went to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the same seminary where I received my doctorate. In fact, I timed my graduation so I would have the privilege of graduating with him. He graduated with two masters degrees at GCTS and is now completing his PhD at Fuller Seminary.

I’m tempted to talk more about Uchenna but let me get to the point. One day when we were at the association office in Rabat, he received an email from someone saying that they would not be able to continue their financial support of his ministry. He responded by thanking them for being obedient to God to support him for the period of time they were supposed to do that. Now he released them with his blessing.

Uchenna did not worry and fret about how he would live without this substantial monthly gift. He did not want the person who had supported him to feel guilt for stopping the support. He cared about the person who had supported him and wanted that person to be blessed.

Uchenna trusted that God would provide for him. And this is what he has done. In the last nine years God has provided for Uchenna to get two masters degrees and is almost finished with his PhD. His wife graduated from university and received a masters degree. His oldest son graduated from univeristy. His youngest son is currently in university. All this has been accomplished without any debt. God has richly provided for Uchenna and his family.

Uchenna knows that he is dependent on God for what he and his family need. He is grateful for those who support him, but it is God who provides.

The gifts we receive are not paychecks. They are offerings made to God and we are the steward of those gifts. A gift that is given to support you in your ministry is an expression of encouragement and friendship, not money to help you because you are in need. We who receive depend on God for what we need, not the people who support us. Fourth, your ministry offers those who give a valuable opportunity to invest wisely in the work of Jesus in the world.

There are many people and organizations in the world who work hard to find ways to convince people to give money to them. These are the hucksters of our modern world who existed as well in the time of Paul, in Thessalonica, in Corinth, everywhere.

In the book of Acts, Peter and John went to Samaria after Phillip told them there were many people responding to the gospel of Jesus. When they went, they prayed for these people who had been baptized to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon, who made his living as a magician, saw this and offered them money if they would show him how they did this. After he was rebuked he went away. History tells us that he and a prostitute from Tyre went on to found a cult that existed for the next three hundred years.

Here in Morocco there is a group of young men who formed a house church and send out monthly prayer letters to foreigners who support them. But the only time they meet together is when one of the foreigners who support them comes to visit. This is missions as business.

There are television evangelists and faith healers who take the gifts they receive to build mansions, fly around in jets, and stay in Presidential suites of hotels.

Followers of Jesus are aware of all this, so they wonder where they can invest the money they have in the kingdom of God. They want to invest in the kingdom of God but do not want their money to be wasted. When they find someone who is working for Jesus and not trying to build their own earthly kingdom, it is like finding a treasure.

There is a lot of unhealthy giving and receiving in the church. Those who give have power and can use it to control the person or church or ministry they give to. This leads the person, church, or ministry to make decisions based on what the big giver thinks is a good thing, rather than looking to God for direction.

In healthy giving and receiving there is a friendship, there is an egalitarian relationship. The one who gives is grateful that there is a good ministry to invest in. The one who receives is grateful that there is someone who recognizes the value of the ministry and wants to support it. It is a win-win relationship. Both are grateful. Both are blessed.

Do you want to support the work of Jesus in the world? Are you eager to find people in ministry you can support with your financial giving? If so, this is a sign of spiritual health. God is at work in your heart.

I am grateful to have met people during my years at RIC whose ministry I admire. I cannot support each one of them, but I can support some of them.

I am in awe of the ministry that has developed under the leadership of Pastor Elliot. The depth of the discipleship that is taking place in FCI is amazing. I am constantly encouraging people to support FCI and to support Elliot personally as he leads this ministry. It is a privilege for me to be a friend to Elliot and to be able to encourage and support him in his ministry.

I am in awe of the ministry that is taking place under the leadership of one of my Moroccan friends. And again, I consider it to be a privilege to be a friend and to encourage him in what he does.

A lot of you travel around the world as your career takes you to new places. As you travel, as you meet people and have the opportunity to observe who they are and what they do, ask yourself if this is a person, a ministry you can support with your gifts.

Keep your eyes open and when you see someone working for Jesus with integrity, ask God how you can bless and encourage that person. If your heart is drawn to that ministry, invest in it in a friendship that supports and encourages the leader of that ministry.

Jesus is at work in the world. He is working to rescue this generation, just as he has worked to rescue the generations throughout the history of the church. You cannot give him your financial gifts, but you can support and encourage those who have dedicated themselves to serve him full-time.