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.