After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
It’s the season of giving, and there are many opportunities to give this December. Have you ever wondered why we, as Christians, give financially to support Christian ministries and causes? Consider reading Philippians. Philippians blends deep theology and immense practicality. This letter declares the joys of knowing Jesus repeatedly. And it portrays a church living in light of all that Christ has done.
Philippians teaches us the goal of every church, the goal of every Christian, is to look more like Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God the Father. And in the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul shows that this kind of life involves and a generous spirit.
I want to look at this passage because I trust this will help us think biblically about our giving. And I trust it will help us continue to pursue the kind of generosity that marked the Philippian church and should mark all of Christ’s people.
So, why should we give money to support our church or to support Christian ministries?
1.) Giving is compassionate
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. (Philippians 4:14)
Paul suffered throughout his ministry. And the Philippians, in an act of kindness and compassion, sent him financial aid to alleviate some of his sufferings.
God’s servants are not immune to suffering. Maybe you know of a pastor, church planter, or missionary who is enduring painful trials. You certainly know of ministries caring for hurting people around the world. If financial assistance will bring some relief, then giving will be an act of compassion.
Of course, Christian compassion will always extend beyond care for people’s physical well-being to their spiritual well-being. If a person never knows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, his or her life will end in tragedy. As Christians, we keep that at the forefront of our minds.
We do not neglect soul-care as we engage in physical care.
When you support Christian ministries striving to advance the soul-saving, and eternal-comfort-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, you are being compassionate.
2.) Giving is ministry
…no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. (Philippians 4:15)
Notice what Paul is saying. In their giving, the Philippians were not merely supporting Paul’s ministry, they were partnering in his ministry. Their financial assistance of Paul’s missionary activity made them a part of that work themselves!
That’s so important for us to understand. Giving is not simply a way to support Christian ministries. Giving makes you a part of the ministry itself!
3.) Giving is wise
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. (Philippians 4:17)
I don’t know much about investing, but here’s what I do know: Wise investing, successful investing, produces increasing returns. When Scripture talks about investing our resources in gospel ministry, we see again and again that this is wise, because it is abundantly fruitful.
Look at verse 17. “I’m not ultimately seeking your money,” Paul says emphatically. “I’m seeking the fruit that increases to your credit.” What does that mean? Well, Paul is simply following a principle laid out by Jesus:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… (Matthew 6:19-20)
Jesus is saying that it’s possible to invest in all kinds of things in this life. Treasures on earth can be taken from us. Criminals can steal them. Time and age can wear them down and destroy them. Markets can crash and diminish them.
But, there is another kind of investing that is completely secure. We can lay up treasures in heavenly things. We can invest in the work of building Christ’s kingdom.
Investing in Christ’s kingdom produces an amazing return.
4.) Giving is worship
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. (Philippians 4:18)
Paul is taking language straight out of the Old Testament. When you read the commands about worship through sacrifice in the Bible you find this kind of language over and over again (see Leviticus 1:9).
Paul uses this language of fragrant offerings and acceptable sacrifices to make a clear point: the gift the Philippians sent him was an act of worship, and it was pleasing to God.
And when he says it was pleasing to God, he does not mean that their giving earned God’s favor and love. It is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that makes us right with God. Faith in him alone is the basis of our forgiveness and eternal life. But sacrifice in the Old Testament was a part of Israel’s worship, and the same can be said of us today.
We worship when we give. Giving is not merely about supporting a person or a ministry. Giving is not merely about following a command. More than this, giving is about heartfelt worship to the Lord. You are acknowledging, “God, you own everything. All that I have is a gift from you. So, I willingly and joyfully release your resources for your work.”
5.) Giving is safe
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Most investing involves risk. And this is often the obvious reason we struggle with giving. You might be wondering, If I give to the Lord, if I support Christian ministries, how can I be sure that I’ll have enough for everything else?
Well, verse 19 provides a wonderful promise to rest in: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We need to let that sink in.
Two Things You Need to Know about Philippians 4:19
1.) This verse is not describing God like some kind of vending machine. If you put in some cash, he’ll pour out all the blessings you can imagine. That false teaching is being promoted in the name of Jesus all over this country and sadly all over this world. The so-called “prosperity gospel” that calls on people to send in their cash so that God can pour out material blessing is a lie. The blessing of the true gospel is Christ and eternal glory with him, not material wealth in this life.
2.) What you think you need and what God knows you need may be two different things. In God’s perfect wisdom he may withhold many things that you feel are necessities. But because he is your loving Father in Christ, you can always trust that he is doing this for your good.
So, with those qualifications in place, hear this wonderful news one more time: My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Why should we support Christian ministries?
Giving is compassionate, giving is ministry, giving is wise, giving is worship, and giving is safe because we serve the God of abundant riches. He will take care of us.
At the end of the day, our greatest desire is that the God who made us, the God who saved us, and the God who will bring us into his kingdom one day will receive glory forever and ever.
There is no greater motivator than the glory of God, and giving is one way we honor him.
But we must remember that every Christian virtue, including giving, happens under the banner of his grace. Philippians ends with these words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philippians 4:23).
We do not support Christian ministries in order to earn God’s favor, we do not pray in order to earn God’s favor, we do not attend church in order to earn God’s favor, we do not do anything in order to earn God’s favor.
We do everything in response to the favor he has graciously shown us, and continues to graciously show us each day, and will graciously show us forever.