The world loves to celebrate philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, who give out of their wealth to alleviate poverty. And well it should. This is an honorable way to use a plethora of resources. But God calls us to something deeper, a lifestyle of generosity that gives from a recognition of who we are—created and saved by God. All that we are and have comes from God. Because of this, we can give not just our stuff but our very selves, and we give not just out of abundance but out of scarcity.
Paul had a special love for the Philippian church, and they for him. After his ministry to them, they sent him off with financial gifts and continued to send money through the years. Their financial support came not from their abundance but from their love of Paul and their belief in his ministry. With a few exceptions, the Philippian church suffered financially. It was mostly made up of the poor. But this did not stop them from generosity.
recognition of true citizenship
The Philippians could give in the midst of their own need because they knew their “citizenship is in heaven,” and they awaited the return of the king who would set everything right and transform their broken bodies and broken situations (3:20). Their lives, under Roman rule and in financial stress, were not their ultimate reality. All of that would fall to pieces no matter how much they did or didn’t have. The true reality, and the true work—that which would last—belonged to the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom that will one day fill the earth when Christ returns. In the face of that, what are a few pennies? Compared to the glory we share with Christ as citizens of his kingdom, we can “count everything as loss” (v. 8). Even if we only have bread crumbs, we can share those with others in need as we look forward to a feast with the Messiah. Like our King, who “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant” (2:7), the ultimate expression of generosity, we can empty ourselves, sharing everything we are and have because he shared himself and his kingdom with us.
partnership in the gospel
Paul called the Philippians partners in the gospel (1:5). Their prayers led them to give, and their giving led them to pray. Their concern for Paul resulted in an outpouring of their pockets. But beyond their love of his person, they loved his work, the work they knew first-hand came from God. His trouble was their trouble, his ministry, their ministry. Their finances and prayers knit Paul and the Philippians together, one body of Christ with one purpose—to make God known.
Think about this in the context of your local church. When we give generously of ourselves, we get to link arms with other members of the body of Christ to glorify God and love our neighbor. Using every gift we have been given is not just good for us. It’s also good for the kingdom.