“Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble” (Phil 4:14).
Sometimes we hear of someone not doing so well and we look for a few spare dollars to help out. After we have been well cared for, it really is not too much to ask to find a little extra resource to help someone in need. Praise God that this happens.
Even when this happens, in our best moments of serving another in need, often the Scripture still calls us to a higher standard. It’s not just giving out of your excess but its sharing in the suffering. It's not just giving that which you don't really need, but going without to help another. It’s not that we are giving something of our own, but we are handing over that which always belonged to God in the first place. And, it’s not a duty, but in the knowledge of our sole contentment in Christ, we are able to part with our resources cheerfully. For the Christian, generosity toward the gospel flows out of a heart of contentment. It comes from a basic understanding that our Kingdom is not of this world and in Christ we have everything.
This type of giving is one of the joys that Paul expresses with great fondness about the Philippian Church. They are the only ones to partner with him so generously in supplying material gifts from the very beginning. While Paul tells the Corinthian church not to give because of their ungodly attitudes, the Philippian gifts have come as a sweet aroma and sacrifice to the Lord (2 Cor 11:7-9). They were kind not just because they gave to him while he was in trouble but because they shared in suffering. They gave during their own hardships (Phil 1:29-30). They gave when it hurt to give. They gave knowing that they are just Pilgrims passing through a land not their own. They gave knowing that anything they have comes first from God.
These are the attitudes that are the breeding ground for biblical generosity. These attitudes are based on gratitude to God and love for his gospel and its work in others. Generosity is not only about money. The Corinthians had become judgmental in their attitudes and boasting in their own achievements to the degree of finding fault in Paul. They had an ungenerous spirit. How does Paul respond? 1Co 4:7 “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” This tough love from the apostle poses one little question that we should continually ask ourselves about everything we have whether money, abilities and talents, opportunities or any kind of benefits that come our way. “What do you have that you did not receive?” Let’s put it another way. It’s not ours to start with – so be generous with it and let’s start with our attitude.
Are we a Corinthian or a Philippian? The Philippians have the joy of giving out of a confidence that only those in Christ can ever know. Phil 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory forever and ever. Amen.” The reality of our inheritance in Christ helps us to realize that even in our lowest moments when we only know earthly need, we have an overflowing abundance. Most of us in America don't know what it is really like to go without and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. But what might happen in our churches if we all took one step closer towards it?