Living within ones means, looking out for other’s needs – Saturday,31st Week in ordinary time – Philippians 4:10-19

Living within ones means, looking out for other’s needs – Saturday,31st Week in ordinary time – Philippians 4:10-19

Today, we wrap up the last of the five-part teaching on Philippians. This four-chapter letter packs quite a punch both doctrinally, spiritually and as we will study today, emotionally. The closing text of St Paul is not just an acknowledgment of the gift that the Philippians have sent him through Epaphroditus but also a glimpse of a man who could wear his heart on his sleeve.

The generosity of the Philippians Church went back a long way. In Acts 16 and 17 we read how he preached the gospel in Philippi and then in Thessalonica and Berea. But of all these, only Philippi had remembered him, and put their love down in so tangible a way. Paul tells them that he is glad, not that they gave him a gift for his sake, but that this generosity would stand them in good stead in the kingdom.

When we first read the opening lines of today’s text it seem that Paul is being sarcastic with the words, “now at last you have revived your concern for me.” But it becomes clear that sarcasm is not what is being employed here. It seems that for some reason, the Philippians lacked the opportunity to reach out to Paul; blame it on the bad Roman postal system if you must! But when the lines of communication were opened, the love of the Philippians was received tangibly by Paul

Paul gives us a beautiful teaching on learning to live life according to ones means but also to learn to look around and see if others are in need. Paul plays coy in this text. Even though he was(perhaps at one time) a man of means (remember he was a tent maker) he lives a rather modest life. This he says “has learnt” (verse 12b). Living simply is a decision that we have to subject ourselves to. We may want everything but that does not mean we need everything. Paul is not giving us a ‘talk’ on simplicity of life, he has walked the talk.

It is interesting that this apostle to the Gentile was subjected to every experience by God. God’s ministers and disciples are not protected by a an invisible spiritual dome. They are to live in the world yet not of the world. Paul was blessed with plenty and he also had to learn to live with nothing. For most of us, blessings are taken for granted while our cries of protest are loud and vigorous if we think God has dealt us an unfair hand. Not so for Paul! In season and out, Paul could “do all things in Christ who strengthened him.”

This verse 4:13 is often tom-tommed as if it is a magic mantra. Christians quote it and repeat it several times as if it would make you do the impossible. While faith can move mountains, we must understand that Paul uses this verse to express his ability to be content in all things not his ability to achieve a goal in life. To achieve this contentment, he needed the strength of Jesus Christ.

Paul winds down his letter with a personal paragraph of thanks to the Philippians. The Philippians had supported Paul when no other Macedonian church stepped forward to help. It was this Church that “more than once” had supported Paul. Paul is not one to forget kindness. My French teacher Mrs Drucilla Fernandes often said to us in class, “little things make a man.” These are words I recommend you remember. This was Paul’s little thank you note WRITTEN FROM PRISON. He was in prison, in chains, but so grateful for the little things he had received; grateful enough to immortalize his thanks to the Philippians in his epistle. Here we are, reading these words of Paul who remembered ‘little things’ and that made him ‘the man’!

Paul rejoices not just for the gift he has received but the intention and love behind the giving. It is this love that ‘profits to their account.’ When we give with love we are never poorer because we gave. This gift, given by the Philippians in love, is therefore a “fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. It is pleasing to God not because of WHAT was given but because of the intention with which it was given; LOVE! This was truly a sacrifice for much had been sacrificed by the community in order to make this love offering for Paul and he was not one to forget this act of love.

It is such giving that moves the heart of God to ‘satisfy every need of ours.” Note again that God satisfies our EVERY NEED, not our greed. The focus is on both the words, ‘every’ and ‘need’. Our greed gets none of God’s attention.

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One thought on “Living within ones means, looking out for other’s needs – Saturday,31st Week in ordinary time – Philippians 4:10-19”

  • Thanks for the explanation on “I can do all things in Christ…..”. It opened my mind to seeing this in a new way. I can be content in all things through the strength of God in me. I can still say it as my mantra, with this new understanding!


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