Friday, March 1, 2019

Contentment and Generosity

I finished a sermon series on Paul's letter to the Philippians this past Lord's Day (you can listen to the series here). One point I noticed at the end of this letter was how Paul ended by highlighting both contentment and generosity.

Paul notes that he received their gift with joy, but not because he was discontent and desperate until he received it. Rather, he had learned to be content in whatever situation (4:10-13). And since Paul had just exhorted the Philippians to imitate him (3:17, 4:9), Paul intends for his reader to practice this contentment as well. But at this point, his readers could have wondered, "should we have sent this gift? If Paul was content, we could have saved ourselves the trouble and kept the gift."

Valuing contentment without also valuing generosity could leave you thinking that you don’t need to help others - they just need to be content. If they are content like they should be, why should I send help?

Paul correct this false inference: "Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble" (4:14). In fact, he notes that this generosity contributed to their own credit (4:17) and that it was a "a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (4:18). This gift was an expression of the partnership they had with him (4:15). It gave him joy (4:10).

When God's people exercise both contentment and generosity, they steer clear of the temptations of envy, greed, and selfishness and learn to live in unity and love. Both of these traits depend upon a trust in God found in the gospel. Contentment is only possible "through him who strengthens me" (4:13), and generosity is motivated by its value in the sight of God and the assurance that God "will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (4:19). The peace of God comes to us as individuals and as a community when we turn from trust in our self and our stuff unto trust in God through Christ, leading us to both contentment and generosity.

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