Philippians 4:10–23: Generosity

by Sep 19, 20160 comments

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At the very end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the apostle finally thanks the Philippians for their financial gift to him. Although thanking the Philippians for their monetary partnership with him is one of the chief reasons prompting him to write this letter in the first place, he waits until the very end of this letter to do it. Paul has needed to address many things in this letter to the Philippians, but he has not forgotten to express his gratitude for their generosity.

Of course, Paul would never address themes as significant as worldly possessions, financial stewardship, and generosity with a perfunctory thank you note. Instead, he takes this opportunity to expand the Philippians’ vision for generosity beyond what they already have. Paul is not trying to squeeze more money out of the Philippians, and he goes to great lengths (as we will see) to avoid suggesting that he was at all desperate for what they sent to him. Rather, he treats their giving along the same lines that he has addressed their wider spiritual growth in the gospel: as the work of God in them, both to will and to work.

In this closing section of the letter to the Philippians, Paul touches on several themes from this letter to place Christian generosity squarely within the context of the cruciform life—as a part of their sanctification, and also squarely under the gracious provision of God.

Discussion Questions

1. Why does Paul rejoice in the Lord when he receives the gift of the Philippians? Why do we typically rejoice when we receive a gift? What drives Paul to be so concerned for the spiritual growth of the Philippians? How might we pursue that kind of spiritual concern for others?

2. What role did contentedness play in the ancient, pagan world? What does our culture think about contentedness? How has the worldly values of consumerism shaped our approach to wealth and generosity? What does Paul tell us about the role of contentedness in the Christian life? How might we pursue that kind of contentedness?

3. What does Paul mean when he talks about “the fruit that increases to your credit” (Phil. 4:17) in the Christian life? Can we earn credit or standing before God? If not, then what role does generosity play in our sanctification and growth in grace? How might we pursue that kind of generosity?

4. What can we expect to receive from God’s “supply…according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19)? How is this compatible with the way that Christians can suffer from unmet needs and material poverty? How do we recognize the generosity of God in the midst of our suffering? How might we pursue that kind of mindset?