If giving—of ourselves, our time, and our resources, especially financial ones—is a key impetus fort the success of God’s work in the world, then it would make complete sense for God to appeal to naturally selfish, self-protective people to part with their money to support and enable that work. And He uses the providentially-enabled ministry of the Philippians to Paul to do so.
Paul is writing a thank-you note to the Philippians in response to their recent financial gift to him. In the first part, he uses the gift’s arrival to discuss the sufficiency of Christ. He does not want the Philippians to think he does not believe Christ is enough, so he assures them that with or without their support he is content in Christ (indeed, that Christ manifested His sufficiency in moving the Philippians to give). In this second part, he gives them instruction on Christian giving. He assures them they have done well to partner with him, and uses that partnership to illustrate several principles that undergird our giving to God’s work. In these three verses, we will look at the final three.
A. Gospel-Centered Giving Must be Done Sacrificially as an Act of Worship (v. 18)
Recall that our brother Paul has extolled the example of the Macedonian churches to the Corinthians as a means to encourage their own giving (2 Cor. 8-9). These churches of course included the Philippians. This means that the gift they sent Paul was in all likelihood not an objectively large sum of money—but because Paul is seeing firsthand how the Philippians have been moved by the reigning Christ to give out of their poverty to him—that our Lord is meeting his needs according to His own heavenly riches—Paul sees it for the vast grace that it is. (My thanks to Mike Riccardi for this point.)
This, then, is why Paul uses superlative language to describe their gift—“received…in full” (lit. “filled to overflowing”), “abundance,” etc. For little is more than enough when God is in it.
But the circumstances of the Philippians are also the reason why giving is to be both sacrificial and worshipful. Poor people do not have a lot of money to go around; every dollar spent on a bill is one less to spend on other bills or at least other needs. It is very possible the Philippians let bills go unpaid to give their money to Paul—not out of some scoundrel plan to enrich some televangelist with their Social Security check, but to meet the real needs of an equally-impoverished apostle of Christ. What gracious, tender love wrought in the heart by the Spirit! What kindness of our Lord to use Gentiles to meet the needs of the Jewish Pharisee! They gave out of what little they had to be a blessing to the beloved Paul.
This is why it was an act of worship, too. Paul explicitly alludes to the OT sacrificial system in the second half of this verse, arguing that their gift is just as pleasing to God as the divinely-appointed priestly system of the old covenant! It is likely that Paul refers primarily to the firstfruits offering of the OT—where God’s people were required to give to Him the first and best of their animals as a thank offering to Him. God was pleased by such offerings when done with a right, humble heart. And so Paul says that just as the OT saint giving to God the first of his livestock out of gratitude and recognition of God as Provider and Ruler was pleasing to Him, so Gentile saints under the new covenant can be pleasing to Him as they sacrifice their money to further His work—showing it is their priority and joy above both comfort and their own needs!
That this pleases God because it is at bottom an act of trust in His character and provision, and a delight in that character, as well as a valuing of His priorities, is evident from the rest of the text. We will look at one way God blesses this faith in the next verse.
B. Gospel-Centered Giving Results in God’s Provision (v. 19)
Because money is finite, it can only go to so many things. Even those of us with very good jobs or an excess of resources can only use so much before it runs out. This is only truer the less money one has. As such, it can be very tempting to trust money as powerful, useful, and effectual—and therefore not part with it under any circumstances.
But like all forms of unbelief, this one is active, too, not passive. It is trusting in money, not trusting in the Lord. It is trusting the resource, not the Source. And ironically, God will do more to frustrate and hinder—especially financially—the person trusting in money than the person who trusts Him and is thus generous with what they have.
That trusting person will be lavishly rewarded by God’s abundant provision. Do you want a motivation for your giving? Here it is: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” There is so much here I wish I did not have a word limit! We will take the flyover.
My. This is personal for Paul. The God he knows and loves, the God he has poured himself out for, the God who acts every moment to fulfill His promise-plan, this God will do it. It is also experiential, as doubtless Paul has many testimonies of what this God has done for him (the Philippians thank-you note only being the latest).
God. The one eternal God of the OT, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all, the One who makes and keep promises, the One who became incarnate as Jesus Christ, and who thus is dead, buried, and resurrected, and now reigning, for and over us, and who will one day make all things new. This God can be counted on to bring the future into the present to an extent as He redeems and restores as a picture of the fullness that will come in the millennium and on the new earth.
Supply. This is the same word used for “amply supply” in verse 18. It carries the idea of overflowing and having more than enough.
Needs. Not everything we might want (thank God, as our desires are fickle and fallen), but everything we need. However, this should not be understood as bare minimum needs (rags, crust of moldy bread, and a cardboard box to live in), but everything God sees we need for the life He wants us to have, and only when we need it. This not only expands God’s active provision lavishly to every moment, possession, and lack of our lives (God meets deeper needs in our lacking!), but reveals to us our meticulously sovereign God, who has an overarching plan for the whole world and everything that happens fits into it perfectly. Of course, the emphasis here is on positive needs, both material and spiritual.
According to. Not “out of,” but “in proportion to,” “in keeping with.” How many riches does our infinite creator God have? Limitless ones!
His riches in glory. “Glory” is the essence of who God is. It is all of His attributes, character, person, and work, in the exact full spectrum of combinations that make Him eternal God. This phrase teaches that this glory makes God infinitely wealthy; that the use of this wealth manifests His glory; and, that the glory is…
In Christ Jesus. The glory is tied to our Lord Jesus. This means His incarnation, His person, and His past-present-future work. Indeed, it would not be wrong to see both union with Christ (God manifests His glorious riches to us because we are in Christ and thus every bit as deserving of them as Jesus Himself) and Christ as the Doer (the “God” here is Christ Himself, who as the Sovereign of the universe and the center of the divine program showers His riches on the subjects of His present-future kingdom) in this phrase.
Now will you part with your twenty dollars to support your church? If done in faith and as a worshipful sacrifice to Him, our Lord promises He will meet all of your needs. Choose to trust Him, and be blessed!
C. Gospel-Centered Giving Leads to an Overflowing Doxology (v. 20)
That God would include sinners in His eternal plan—which in this age means primarily reaching and discipling other sinners for His glory—is humbling enough. That He would encourage us to give ourselves with abandon to that plan with the assurance that as we do His hands will be there to catch us and lift us to unparalleled heights of blessing and provision (and in this, we share with Israel in that both categories of God’s people are to show a watching world what it looks like to have the true God as your Friend and not your Enemy) is staggering in its kindness and generosity. I cannot help but hear echoes of His word to OT Israel, encouraging them to obey His commands for sacrifice and service: “‘Test Me now in this…if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows’” (Mal. 3:10).
God’s goodness to us in His commissioning, blessing, and saving us can only result in a resounding cry of praise to Him. This goodness, too, is a manifestation of His glory, and only the eyes of faith can see it in its fullness (I do not mean exhaustively, but comprehensively), and have a right response to it. God’s meeting of all our needs is the cherry on the sundae. It is the lavishness of His grace and goodness that is already overflowing in our salvation. The whole thing makes us love Him more, and ascribe to Him the glory due the name of One who is this kind of matchless person. We see His glory for what it is, and respond to it as glorious.
Glorify Him in your sacrificial, worshipful giving. Glorify Him in receiving His blessing as an expression of His character. Glorify Him in praising Him for who He is. Amen.