“Lord Jesus, help us to learn, as St. Paul learned, to be content. Help us to accept our circumstances. Teach us, Lord Jesus, to learn the true meaning of the word ‘sacrifice’. Thank You, Lord Jesus.”
10 But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; in which you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. 14 However you did well that you shared in my affliction. 15 You yourselves also know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Good News, when I departed from Macedonia, no assembly shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my need. 17 Not that I seek for the gift, but I seek for the fruit that increases to your account. 18 But I have all things, and abound. I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. 19 My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever! Amen. Link to WEB.
The first thing that occurs to me is that Epaphroditus became quite ill in taking the Philippians gift to Paul. All through this section we are confronted with the ideas of “need” and “sacrifice” and “contentment”. Note that he did get well and he did take this letter back to Philippi.
The IVP Commentary give an interesting insight into Greco-Roman culture concerning friendship. ( ) There is also a discussion on “need” and a very short comparison of the Stoic/Cynic idea of contentment with the Christian idea.
Second, we continue to find some more ‘famous’ verses that are frequently quoted. Paul and Timothy had much to say that was worth repeating. I’ve made some comments about the context of these frequently quoted verses. I do think it very worthwhile to quote Holy Scripture. However, when we quote Scripture without understanding the context, we can effectively misquote it. Saying “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” might sound wonderful to a new Christian. Out of context, it can easily lead that new Christian into Sin. “Rejoice in the Lord always” can cause confusion and lead to doubt and discouragement. Jesus told us to be “…as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves…” (Matthew 10:16) How, you may ask, can we do this…well, as in all things, we do it through the Holy Spirit.
Third, Matthew Henry points out that the Philippians’s gift was not a sacrifice of Atonement; rather, it was a sacrifice of Acknowledgment. This is a very important point. Atonement was achieved by Jesus through the Cross and Resurrection. That is why we “rejoice always”. Thus, they sent the gift. Both Matthew Henry and The IVP Commentary address this stressing the idea of their sacrifice rather than his need. The idea is that there is a sort of ‘bank account’ that is accruing interest on the ‘principle’ of their gifts. This makes their gift an offering of honor, not to fulfill Paul’s need but as praise to God, a thanksgiving. As a sort of extra excursion, you might want to look closely at verse 18. There is a translation question on verse 18. The WEB, ASV and Young’s Literal Translation have it one way, the NKJV slightly different and the NIV differs once again. I find these things fascinating, as they help me comprehend the meaning of Scripture.
Fourth, we really need to learn to be content. God gave us the Tenth Commandment because He understood our discontent. ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ sums it up very nicely.
I’m going to expand on this, as it is one of my pet peeves. Certain political factions claim that ‘the rich’ should be taxed and that money given to ‘the poor’. They are teaching ‘the poor’ that it is okay to covet the riches of others. Now, when we observe those who, for some reason, have little in worldly riches, we have compassion for them. We desire to help them obtain worldly riches in order that they may have a “better” life. True, some of those who are ‘rich’ certainly do exploit others. But, as Christians, what should we do? Punish (tax) the rich? Or teach the ‘rich’ that they need Jesus? What do the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’ need most? Worldly goods or spiritual healing?
Unfortunately, it is much easier for ‘the rich’ to pay high taxes to ease their conscience while they continue to exploit ‘the poor’. However, if ‘the rich’ gain Christ, will they continue to exploit others? Or will they be leaders in teaching others about Christ? Jesus never condemned ‘the rich’ but instead, he went to their houses and ate with them. Thus swindling tax collectors like Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 1-10) became honest tax collectors who led others to Christ.
As citizens of The World, we desire to separate those who we see as victims from those who we deem to be the exploiters. In reality, both need spiritual healing. Money has not given the rich a “better” life—merely a life with more things and a different set of worries.