by Barry Newton
When a husband intends to compliment his wife for not being a shallow, greedy, fashion-driven diva, but chooses the unfortunate words, “she’s cheap,” you can only watch with pity or perhaps amusement as he tries to recover. Paul was not impervious to the need to recover, or at least explain more accurately what he meant.
Having promoted throughout the Philippian letter a loving selfless mindset focused upon Christ, it might appear that the apostle suddenly reversed course. “I have great joy in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me” (Philippians 4:10 NET).
While it is possible to interpret Paul in a very self-absorbed way fixated upon finally receiving a gift, Paul bluntly proclaimed his intention was otherwise. His rejoicing revolved around them finally having an opportunity to demonstrate concern for others that this might be credited to their account. Apparently aware that his opening statement could be misunderstood, Paul attempted to clarify his intent through several steps.
First, he acknowledged that it was their lack of opportunity which had prevented them from recently expressing this form of selfless love.
Second, he stressed the sufficiency of Christ in his own life. With or without gifts, Christ provided him with strength and contentment.
Third, he affirmed their sharing with him during his troubles constituted the appropriate Christian response.
Fourth, he revealed the true result of their gift. These were not merely ample provisions provided him, rather they constituted an acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God. Paul’s was thrilled that their expression of care would be “credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17).
This letter began with Paul praying for their “love to abound…so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:9,10,11 NET). While there were other areas in their Christian life where the mindset of Christ still needed to penetrate, their gift provided evidence of a significant beachhead. Paul rejoiced.
What causes us joy? Does our joy primarily revolve around the blessings we receive or does our joy erupt foremost over the evidence of spiritual growth in others?