Philippians Part 11: True Contentment
September 27, 2020 Series: Philippians
Passage: Philippians 4:10–4:23
 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.  Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.  All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (ESV)
This sermon, funny enough, is about money. Yes, we have a financial meeting after this church to approach our church budget, and we are going to be preaching about money. I’ll tell you that this was not by design whatsoever. Or at least my own design.
Secondly, I am not afraid to talk about money. Money is a coveted thing in our American society. Money plays massive roles in our identity, value, self-worth, the have/have nots- much of those things circle the conversation about money.
And yes, ever since the beginning, ministry and church ministry cost money. People who claim “no, the New Testament doesn’t have anything about tithing in it” – no, not formally speaking. But yes, as they were getting organized and were still in house churches, ministers like Paul needed financial support, even though he was a tent maker. Churches had needs in Jerusalem, and other churches financially contributed to them, you can read about that in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Jesus himself had financial supporters – did you know that? Luke gives us a list of all of those who contributed to Jesus’ ministry in Luke 8:1-3.
Now, of course over time as the Christian church continued to grow, no one is quite sure when churches began building churches, but the oldest church facility in the world is the Dura-Europos church, located today in Syria. It is a house-church, half of it a normal Roman dwelling, the other half converted to a church assembly room, or sanctuary, if you will. There was art frescoes there, walls torn down to make room for the assembly, baptistry – all of which, whether to collective donors, a wealthy individual – but we can assume through some sort of tithing process, its construction and art and furniture inside was paid for.
Before we dive in, to dispell some rumors: 1) No, the New Testament doesn’t mention tithing. It comes from various Old Testament practices, particularly in dealing with the tabernacle and priestly support of the Levites – tithe simply means “a tenth.” Therefore, you may hear people say things like “you should give ten percent of your money to God.” Sure, that’s not a bad idea, but according to our New Testament, as we will see – maybe its a good place to start. At minimum, we don’t end there.
If you are uncomfortable talking about money, if you’re a guest this morning and you feel awkward – can I say this: the fact that you feel awkward means that it is not spoken of enough. If there is anything in America that we cling to as “ours!” and something that “no one can tell me what to do with” – it is money. We work and we earn it, and we imagine that in that scenario, whatever our hands work at, the fruit of the paycheck at the end means that it is OUR money.
Let’s not feel awkward talking about money here. The fact is is that ministry costs money, it always has. Yes, there are numerous examples of churches and pastors that abuse that reality, and fly their private jets around off of money that was given to God. Some pastors even have changed their last name to dollar! All of these things are true. But don’t let those things negate the reality of giving and what the Bible teaches.
As we look into this passage we will not find a comprehensive text about tithing to the church, because first of all, this is not really a “tithing” passage, addressing a congregation giving money to their individual church. Rather, it is probably more likened to the fact that my salary is paid off of your donations, or the various international missionaries we support receive money from our church – and your financial offerings.
That is more of the relationship within this passage. The way Paul receives this gift, whether it was a wad of cash or clothing, food and the like we are not sure – but the manner in which he receives the gift is very instructive towards the motivations of why we give in the first place.
That is what we are primarily going to address this morning – the WHY behind financial generosity in the local church. This is our final sermon in the book of Philippians, and I pray this sermon series has been beneficial for you these past eleven weeks. Before we jump in, let’s pray.
More in Philippians
September 20, 2020Philippians Part 10: Dealing with Church Conflict
September 6, 2020Philippians Part 9: Our Heavenly Citizenship
August 30, 2020Philippians Part 8: What do you find your identity in?