Saturday, October 20, 2007

More things Paul didn't say...

Please bear with me as I think out loud some more. :) These are all things I've thought a lot about over the years but have pretty much kept it to myself. To repeat something I said earlier, here's what Paul said about God providing for his own needs through the Philippian church: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."

Notice what Paul didn't say. (I mentioned some other things in the "God's supply" post, but here are some more thoughts). Paul didn't say, "For I have learned that in whatever state I am, if I will just tithe ten percent of my income, God will pour out the windows of heaven so much that I won't even be able to contain the blessing!" He didn't say, "For I have learned that in whatever state I am, if I will sow my $77 seed, I will reap a great harvest - a hundred fold - and all my debts will be resolved and I'll be able to move into a much larger house!" He didn't say, "For I have learned that if I just dig in and give more and of myself - of my time, treasure and talents - then God will bless me abundantly.

Notice again the things that happened to Paul as a result of his sacrificial living for the sake of the gospel:

Beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep, in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of his own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness... (from 2 Cor. 11).

If we modern day western Christians had to deal with even one of these things, would we wonder if perhaps we were "out of God's will," or that He was disciplining or punishing us for some reason, or that we simply weren't blessed like the person driving that Cadillac over there?

Regarding the Philippians themselves, Paul didn't congratulate them for fulfilling some biblical principle of giving. He didn't say, "Wow, you gave generously and so now God will pay you back by blessing you!" He did say that their sacrificial giving was "a sweet-smelling aroma, and acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God." So don't read me wrong, I'm not saying that their gift to Paul meant nothing to God. What I'm getting at is that this was not at all about a principle of giving so that God will reward you. Paul was confident that "my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." But this had nothing to do with God paying the Philippians back or rewarding them for their generosity. God will supply all their need, not according to a principle of "you give, I'll reward you," but rather according to His GRACE... according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING that God gives us in Christ Jesus - all His riches in glory in Christ Jesus - cannot be earned!

I don't see Paul preaching at the Philippians (or at anyone else) a message aimed at trying to get them to give generously for any other reason except from a cheerful, willing heart.

Do we have it backwards in the church today? There seems to be a lot of preaching about us giving in order to get the Lord to open up His storehouses and pour out blessings on us. Isn't it true instead, that He gives abundantly to us (perhaps materially, perhaps not), and we give as He enables us, and as our hearts grow in our understanding of His generosity?


  1. I get sick if I listen to the prosperity preachers. I wonder if they are preaching the same God in the Bible! If everything is good - you are blessed by God. If something is wrong - You are being punished by God. Is that the God of New covenant?
    Like you said, then we ought to say that Paul was being punished. He prayed 3 times over his sickness and God said - My grace is sufficient for you! Don't come and tell me he didn't have enough 'faith'. We don't need big faith, we have a big God.
    The word 'content' is not there in most christians dictionary. They always look for 'something'.

    Nice post Joel!

  2. And they won't get that "something" until they sow their money seed - by sending it to THEIR ministry! LOL. Yeah, I have a very hard time watching the prosperity teachers misuse and abuse scriptures like this. The fact is, we are already blessed beyond what we can contain... but so many people are looking for "more." I admit... I'm still getting over some of the ways I used to think. I'm definitely still growing in what it truly means to be blessed.