Gospel Generosity and Kingdom Economics

Philippians 4:14-23 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 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. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Good morning. It’s good to be with you all and it has been a joy and an honor to preach regularly this summer. I’m grateful for the opportunity to not only preach, but also pastor you in a different way this Summer. Thank you for trusting me to shepherd you all. A few weeks ago I mentioned that it’s a semi-regular thing to welcome new additions to our Grace Church family. I wasn’t joking.

This last week we saw two new additions. First, Wyatt Joseph Freedman was born on Monday to Mike and Bre. What a blessing. Keep them in your prayers as they get used to a new season. If you don’t know Mike has taken a position with the ATF, and he has to be in training in Georgia for the next 9 months. Bre is staying here. So pray for them, look for ways to help practically and support them.

Next up is baby Autumn. She is a foster child to the Sivigny family and arrived on Monday as well. There is a very good chance that they will be able to adopt her. Pray for Eric and Danni and the kids as they adjust to an unexpected blessing. As we pray, please also pray that God would speak to us through his word. There’s a lot to cover in the final sermon, I pray that it would be clear, the gospel would be preached and the Holy Spirit would apply grace to our hearts.

Father, thank you for this morning. You are holy and we can only offer acceptable worship because of what the Son first offered up. You are holy and should rightly consume us if not for Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice. God we thank you for the blessings of children. Thank you for Wyatt and Autumn. Thank you for Mike and Bre and Eric and Danni. We ask your blessings and provision on these families as they work to make the gospel clear and train their children what it means to follow Jesus. Help us as a church to support the Freedman’s and Sivigny’s as they get used to new routines, to pray for them, to provide whatever needs they might have. I also pray for the expecting moms in our church. Please keep them safe, healthy and free of anxiety. Father thank you that you have given us family as a way to better understand your relationship with us. Help us to better appreciate your Fatherly care towards us as we as parents.

Lord, I am grateful for your church. This is your plan A to complete your mission and we get to participate in this work. Thank you for your word and the means you accomplish through preaching. I am amazed at the work you have done through us this summer in Philippians. Please speak to us this morning. Please convict us of wrong attitudes, make the text clear to us and cause our affections for Christ to grow. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

This is our final week in Philippians. I titled the series “Joyfully following Jesus together ‘til the end.” If you are a visitor this morning, welcome. Our steady diet of preaching is to work our way through books verse by verse and allowing the biblical authors to tell us what the focus of the text is. Preaching on money isn’t one of our hobby horses, this is simply where the scripture finds us this morning.

Our passage this morning builds off what we looked at last week in verses 10-13. Paul had learned the secret of contentment in any and every circumstance. The secret was being completely satisfied in Christ and seeking the transforming power of the gospel to change his desires rather than his circumstances.

Contentment and generosity are both results of someone who has found satisfaction in Christ. Compared to the things we previously sought satisfaction in, the difference is massive. It’s like someone wanting to use a candle to find their way on a dark night. Then the sun comes up and makes the candle’s light so tiny and unimportant. Or trying to swim in a bathtub compared to swimming in an ocean. Or thinking that that pile of dirt in your backyard offers any kind of view compared to a mountain. That’s the kind of change the gospel makes in a sinner’s life. What used to seem like the ultimate priority now pales in comparison to this new, glorious reality. A new, better affection has come along.

Generosity flows out of this kind of contentment. As we loosen our grip on our abundance and our circumstances, it allows us to give freely. Our passage shows us how this generosity has played out in both the Philippians and in Paul’s life.

In the business world a transaction is made when each party gets something for themselves out of it. One person gets a good or a service, the other gets money or another form of goods to make the deal balance. The operating motive is ‘What’s in it for me?’ How does this partnership or deal benefit me or my company’s interests. It needs to be clear how this works to your party’s advantage.

When we look at generosity or giving to charity outside of the church, you still often see the mindset of a mere transaction. People will donate to a cause for the tax write-off, or in order to get a thank you gift in return. Maybe it’s giving in order to receive an immaterial return like a good feeling, or attention or even publicity. Why else would they make giant checks to give to charity?

Sometimes within the church we have a wrong understanding on how transactions work too. That might sound crass to call them transactions, but all I mean is when one person gives and another receives. Sometimes we can give out of obligation or guilt. Maybe you’ve given out of a desire to atone for something else you’ve done. Probably even more often, we have a hard time receiving generosity. If someone gives you something, are you able to receive it without strings attached? Or do you feel a burden to repay them in some other way?

The irony is that in God’s kingdom, in his economy, when our desires are changed to seek the interests of Christ above our own, everyone actually receives more than expected. The title of the sermon is Gospel Generosity and Kingdom Economics.

In our text we see two sides of the partnership which culminates in glorious blessing. The outline breaks down like this: Verses 14-16 show the Philippians’ external actions as the giver, verses 17-18 show Paul’s internal attitude as the receiver and then 18b-20 show God’s glorious blessings.

I. The Philippians’ external actions (v14-16)

Just as Paul did at the start of chapter 1, he again refers to the Philippians as partners in ministry. The word share in verse 14 and partnership in verse 15 both point to this fellowship they share. If you remember from chapter 1, Paul grounded their horizontal partnership between one another on their vertical fellowship with Christ. Paul and the saints at Philippi had a common faith in the gospel and that meant they had the same standing before God, the same union with Christ, and the same mission in mind. This was a spiritual partnership. As a result of the spiritual partnership and the common mission to see the gospel spread to the ends of the earth, Paul and the Philippians could take all of their resources, spiritual and material, and essentially lay them out on the table. Then they asked the question, “how can we use what we have to advance the gospel?” We have an apostle who is preaching and planting churches, let’s send him out. We have a bit of money, let’s send that to Paul. Likewise Paul can ask the same question, look at his resources and use them for gospel advance. He planted the church at Philippi, he discipled the Philippians. Then he wrote them a letter with further instructions on how to grow in maturity and he sent helpers like Timothy and Epaphroditus to further encourage and support the church.

In the same way, as we grow to see ourselves as partners in the gospel, we throw our resources out on the table and try to answer the same question. We have people with a passion for missions, along with some people who can do construction so we send them to Panama to support our missionaries. Others gave financially to get them there. We have people with teaching gifts, we let them teach Sunday School. Others have a house to host discipleship groups, or babysit others’ kids, or give generously to the church. We have others who know how to manage finances and work to make sure our money is used well. Others really enjoy meeting 1 on 1 with people to make disciples. There are numerous ways we all can contribute to the mission of making disciples.

In our text there are three ways that their outward actions point to their partnership in the gospel. They shared in Paul’s trouble, they shared materially, and they shared continually. First, they shared in Paul’s trouble.

1. Shared Paul’s trouble

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

We covered this last week in verse 10, but the Philippians had Concern for Paul’s situation. Concern is a -like-mindedness for others. Paul again circles back and confirms his gratitude for their concern. Paul is facing serious trouble during his imprisonment and the Philippians are sharing in that trouble. I mentioned this previously, but identifying themselves with Paul, meant they were willing to face whatever Paul might face too. If Paul was labeled an inciter of riots by the Romans and a blasphemer by the Pharisees, then the Philippians risked these labels too. Being partners in the gospel meant sharing trouble. The Philippians also shared in material ways.

2. Shared materially

15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.

What Paul means by ‘in the beginning of the gospel’ is when he first preached the gospel at Philippi. Acts 16 describes how he preached along with Silas and timothy to a group at a prayer gathering and a woman named Lydia heard the gospel and responded in faith, it was the very beginning of the church at Philippi. This led to other conversions, including a jailer. As the church grew, they began to support Paul financially. Paul says that they supported him even when no other church would.

Paul describes this generosity to the other churches he wrote to. In 2 corinthians 8, he says this about the Philippian church, which Paul calls the church at Macedonia.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

Like the poor widow who put her two mites into the offering, Paul recognizes the Philippians for their giving out of their extreme poverty. It’s not the amount of their actual monetary gift, but the internal desire of their heart to give generously to Paul. Paul goes in 2 Corinthians:

3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

The Philippians’ actions toward Paul are instructive for us as well. They saw their partnership with Christ, and therefore with Paul, as the motivation for giving. They didn’t give reluctantly or under compulsion, but gave cheerfully. This wasn’t a motivation to receive recognition, but a heartfelt desire to contribute to the work of the gospel.

3. Shared continually

16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

As Paul recognizes this most recent gift from the church, he also acknowledges that this gift fits with their proven track record. They have given continually in tangible ways to support Paul and the mission of the church.

It’s easy enough for one of us to write a check one time. It’s another thing to have the ongoing discipline to give regularly and continue to look for ways to give generously. Again it’s not the dollar amount that matters as much as the internal desire and actual work of giving that matters.

The Philippians as the giver displayed their internal desires through their external actions. Let’s turn and look at the other side of the partnership with Paul as the receiver.

II. Paul’s internal attitude (v17-18)

17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

1. Paul seeks the interests of others

Just as Paul said in verse 11, he is not seeking the gift for himself. Yes, he had found contentment in his circumstances, but there was another reason too. Others had accused Paul of preaching for his own gain.

2 Cor. 11:7-9 “Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need.”

As Paul acknowledged the generosity of the Philippians, he also wants to be clear that he is not seeking earthly gain from preaching the gospel. He worked hard to remove any hint of improper motives.

Sadly we are too familiar with this kind of twisted motive in American churches today. That people have used the gospel as a way to find financial gain. Paul writes in other places about the rightness of paying preachers for their work in the gospel, but not as a way to gain affluence. Instead of seeking the gift for himself, he rejoices that the Philippians generosity will result in gain for the Philippians. He seeks the fruit that increases to their credit.

2. Seeks the fruit

Paul’s prayer in Chapter 1:11 was that the Philippians would be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ. Now again we see this language desiring fruit. Paul wants the church to receive the blessing that comes from being generous. This is not necessarily an immediate blessing, but the spiritual rewards we will receive at the day of Jesus Christ. He sees the Philippians’ giving as an investment that will reap great heavenly rewards.

He is not deflecting out of false humility, he genuinely rejoices to see the Philippians give freely. He continues in verse 18.

18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent,

When Paul says he is well supplied, he is saying he is not in need. He is saying he has abundance. Paul’s internal attitude is different. He does not look for what is in it for him because he has the mind of Christ.

The ultimate difference in kingdom economics is seeing everything through the lens of pleasing Christ first, rather than pleasing ourselves first. This is a supernatural change that happens when God gives us the faith to believe, our eyes are opened and the Holy Spirit works to change our desires. This informs everything else that follows.

We naturally have selfish ambitions, wanting our own way and are willing to do lots of devious things to get our own way. The model of Christ that we have seen in Philippians flips that into humble obedience. It’s the power of the gospel and the model of Christ that changes giving from a mere transaction into something far more glorious. Let’s look at the glorious blessings Paul describes at the end of verse 18 and following.

III. The glorious blessings of the partnership (v19-20)

18b a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

1. Pleasing aroma

Paul compares the Philippians’ giving to a sacrifice. This is a concept that runs throughout the Bible all the way back to Genesis. Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and on throughout the patriarchs, we see people offering sacrifices to God. A sacrifice costs a person something. Sacrifices in the Old Testament were often unblemished animals like bulls, goats and oxen that would have to come from the persons flocks. An animal that could otherwise be used as a meal or several meals or be sold to support the family was instead offered to God.

Sacrifices had several purposes, but to offer a sacrifice as a fragrant offering refers to burnt offerings. The first instance of a sacrifice with a pleasing aroma was offered by Noah. It was a burnt offering. And Genesis 8 says that the Lord smelled it and it was a pleasing aroma.

For God to accept the offering it must be offered with a proper attitude. It wasn’t to offered flippantly or with the intent of appeasing God. For an offering to be acceptable and pleasing, it required humility and acknowledging God as the LORD.

Psalm 51:16    For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
        you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
        a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Without this broken and contrite heart, the consequences were frightening. Think of Nadab and Abihu or Annanias and saphira to know the severity of offering with wrong motives.

In our own nature, this is not possible. Our motives are all distorted and mixed with sin. We need a way to be acceptable before a holy God for any of this talk of generosity to matter. Which is where Jesus comes in. Christ is the ultimate sacrifice acceptable to God.

Eph 5:2 says ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’

Jesus Christ as the spotless lamb of God grants us access to the Father. His fragrant offering through his death on a cross on our behalf allows our sacrifices to actually be pleasing to God.

Heb 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

When we give with the right heart, in faith, it actually pleases God. Further, Jesus brings other promises. The next promise is that God will supply every need of the saints.

2. Supply every need

19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Contentment is possible because of Christ’s riches. Out of the endless storehouse of God’s supply, through Christ, God supplies us with everything we need. Look again at the Fighter verse this week, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

We do not have to worry about being in need. God will supply our needs. Here is further evidence for Paul’s contentment whether in abundance or need. He knows that God will supply. It means he isn’t actually in need, he abounds in all circumstances. It might not be an abundance by our imagination, but according to God’s riches, Paul abounds.

The order matters, though. Apart from Christ’s work, our works are filthy rags and are not in themselves pleasing to God. When we are in Christ, and have placed our trust in the effectual work of Jesus, then blessings reign down. A false gospel takes this order and flips it. It says that our works can earn God’s blessings and favor. That within ourselves we can offer anything pleasing to a holy God. This way of thinking makes God subject to our desires as if he is bound to fulfill our desires.

God will supply our every need. This promise connects with the promise from chapter 1 verse 6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The gospel partnership will not fail, because God will provide all the resources needed to accomplish the mission. Resources are needed. But that doesn’t always mean using the world’s methods. Some are fooled into thinking that if we just had more resources like nicer churches or slick marketing or famous, engaging speakers, we’d win more to Christ. But that’s not how Paul and the Philippians operated. They realized that even out of their extreme poverty, even in dire circumstances in prison, the gospel was at work and God would ensure they had what they needed.

Finally, as we have seen at other points in the book, all of this generosity is to the glory of God.

3. Glory of God

20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The ultimate goal of everything we do in life is to bring glory to God. When we are generous with our money and view it not as something to worship, but as a resource to use for gospel advance. It is a way to say that our ultimate desire is to see God’s fame spread throughout the world.

Why would we spend a lot of money to send people around the world? That seems strange to an unbeliever. There is no tangible reward or payback for that. But that’s not why we give to these things. We give to them because we desire to see God’s glory.

To an unbeliever this seems backwards. Why would you give without any return or payoff? It’s because God’s kingdom works differently. That’s what I mean by kingdom economics. The Philippians and Paul were more than business partners. They had been changed by the gospel and sought the interests of Jesus. As a result, not only does the gospel advance, but God gives blessings that far outweigh whatever it was that was given up.

Kingdom Economics

As a way to wrap up the book, I wanted to extend this idea of kingdom economics to other places in the book. These are just some bullet points from the letter that show how God’s kingdom works differently than our natural, worldly way of thinking. I’ll run through them quickly with a few thoughts along the way.

As I point out some of the ways Philippians points to the different way of thinking, find one that has stood out to you. Write one of the verses or ideas down and pray about it this week. Ask God to continue to flip your world upside down in this specific area.

  • A different way of thinking.
    1:12-bad circumstances for you or me still bring better things for others.
    1:17-18 We can rejoice in the gospel proclaimed, even in pretense and with poor motives.
    1:21 To die is gain. Paul was willing to die for the sake of Christ.
  • Life worthy of Christ. 1:27-only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Instead of seeking the approval of others, we have only Christ to please.
  • Seeing suffering as a gift. 1:29 It has been granted to you that you would suffer.
    It’s a gift! This fits with the rest of the New Testament’s view of suffering, but the connection to joy in suffering is greater than other books. Think about this. It is one thing to hear Paul describe how he handles suffering with joy, but then in 1:29 he raises the bar immensely. If we wanted to keep our distance and just applaud Paul for his good attitude, then he says, you too get to suffer. You can almost hear the record skip-wait, what? We suffer too? That’s a gift?
  • Seeing heaven as the goal instead of our immediate circumstances. Our accomplishments are Rubbish compared to knowing Christ. Gaining the resurrection of the dead is an unusual idea.
    1:27, 3:20 Setting our minds on our heavenly citizenship over our earthly identities.
  • 3:21 Lowly body to glorious body.
  • 4:10-13 Contentment in any and every circumstance. Rather than seeking to change your circumstances, we seek the unchanging God who instead changes our desires.
  • Unity-better together. Our culture is really struggling to understand unity. Everyone says they want it, but we keep dividing into smaller and smaller groups and the things to unite on keep changing. The church is united over the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hopefully working through the book we’ve seen how foundational this is to understanding anything Paul says. It’s always in the context of the church. He’s always addressing y’all instead of you singular. We strive for unity because many of the images the bible uses to describe the church are all unifying images: a body of many parts, living stones in a spiritual house, one nation comprised of diverse people.

Dave’s last sermon before his sabbatical was titled ‘you are an indispensable link’ and he encouraged us to use our gifts, even more in his absence.

This Summer we have seen more people begin serving in new roles. There are 13 new people this Summer helping in a variety of roles in the worship service from Sound and Powerpoint to scripture reading, announcements and greeters. I’ve seen others help in other ways behind the scenes in specific tasks I’ve needed help with. And I want to recognize our deacons, Kris and Dan. They have been so helpful to me in so many ways this Summer, taking on ways to serve that have freed me up and also involved others to serve as well.

As the final picture of kingdom economics, let’s finish where we began and look at the example of Christ. I began the series with an illustration about the Christ hymn in 2:5-11 like a beautiful mountain over a city. Here’s a picture of Mount Hood with Portland sitting below. The mountain is visible from almost everywhere in the city. Paul fit the Christ Hymn right in the middle of the book so that this image of Christ’s glory through humility would be seen everywhere in the book. Even cooler, the mountain itself is upside down in God’s kingdom. Christ began in heavenly glory, empties himself, takes on flesh and descends further down until his death on a cross. That’s the peak of the mountain and yet the lowliest moment in Christ’s life by earthly standards. Then he rises in glory and is exalted in heaven. It’s like the mountain is in reverse.

Gracious God, thank you for your incredible generosity towards us. Any understanding of generosity begins with you. You have lavished grace upon us. I ask that we would grow in our generosity as a church. Help us to think creatively how to use our resources to advance the gospel. Help us be more united as we strive to make disciples. Thank you for your Word. May it reverberate in our souls this week and cause us to be more amazed by Jesus. May we have our affections stirred for the glory of Jesus and seek your kingdom which is very different than the world’s.