Have you noticed people using the hashtag #blessed when they receive or have something enjoyable? I’ve never yet come across anyone who has used that hashtag when they have given something away sacrificially until it hurts. But surely, that would be a more blessed state, wouldn’t it? After all, Jesus says, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35)! Of course, this is a challenging concept for so many of us – and I am no exception to the rule. Especially in 2021, this is not the sort of thing that we find easy. Nonetheless, if you search, you will find examples of awe-inspiring generosity by Christians who are willing to stretch and give sacrificially, and who see themselves as #blessed. It is worth searching for these men and women, because they will inspire you, and might even keep you accountable. In fact, a great example is the model that we receive from the apostle Paul and the Philippian church in Philippians 4.
Learning from the apostle
Paul explains that there really is something blessed about the Philippians’ sacrificial generosity. Paul rejoices ‘greatly in the Lord’ because gospel-centred missionary work is being supported by these believers (4:10). Paul’s comment is insightful. He explains that gospel proclamation and financial support of ministries are not mutually exclusive. You ought to do both, and both are gospel work. Gospel partnership is an all-in affair, as we strive together after the same goal: to see people won for Jesus, to know Jesus: to know of his death on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead guaranteeing us life in heaven with God forever.
But gospel work is costly, isn’t it? So how is Paul able to rejoice in this? He has learned to be content in all situations (4:12). He has learned to be thankful and satisfied, whether in want or in plenty. Contentment has a lot to do with how you approach the future. Are you anxious about the future, or do you trust that God has it under control? Yes, it is reasonable to make plans for the future. However, contentment for Paul is about making godly decisions in the now. Broken and weak as we are, we can either choose to place ourselves at the mercy of the future, or at the mercy of God who holds the future securely in his hands. And of course, all of this is only possible because of the security we have in Christ. In Christ, God gives us the ability to rejoice, irrespective of our circumstances (4:13).
Learning from the Philippians
The Philippians modelled sacrificial gospel generosity like no other church in the New Testament. The description of them in 2 Corinthians 8 paints an incredible picture of giving until it hurts. The church gave out of their poverty while in the middle of a famine, and were so convicted of their need to give and partner sacrificially that they even begged Paul to be able to give to the church in Jerusalem. The Philippians were not willing to take ‘no’ for an answer! They exemplified what it meant to be generous in partnership from the moment they heard of the gospel (Philippians 4:15). It is often said that the last thing to get converted to Christianity is your wallet. But not so for the Philippians! As young believers, they had experienced generosity by the grace of God, and they responded in generosity.
The Philippians could do this because they were secure in the knowledge that in this age and the age to come, God would take care of their every need (4:19). They had this security because they had tasted of the grace of God in the Lord Jesus. They knew that even when everything else seemed lost, they were secure in God’s love. They had an imperishable inheritance (cf. 1 Peter 1:4). And this security led to the blessing that comes with gospel generosity (Philippians 4:17-18). Paul even says to the Philippians that giving out of generosity would be ‘credited to your account’! This is not because they had earned anything from God, but because they were responding to what God had done in their lives. This is a wonderful picture of the Christian life. On the one hand, God says ‘I will remember your sins no more.’ On the other hand, God will remember our faithfulness.
Gospel generosity is truly #blessed, because it pleases God himself (4:18). Paul uses an image from Leviticus: the ‘pleasing aroma’ that comes from sacrifice to God. Generosity through financial giving to gospel work, and to those who are in need, is something that makes God happy as he ‘breathes in’ the beautiful aroma. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. This means there are really just two ways to consider how to use your money. You can worship the money itself, or you can worship God who gives to you abundantly more than you can ask for, including whatever money you have been given. In giving, you put into practice the truth that you have received more than you could ever give.