Happy SELF Giving!

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV)

Really, Paul? In any and every situation? How can you live “in want” and still be content? Are you just trying to sound extra spiritual? Are you in denial?

Had any other Paul made this claim, I might be even more skeptical. But this was Paul the Apostle. He was the missionary of all missionaries. After being transformed by Jesus, he travelled the then-known world as a missionary. He planted churches, stayed calm in an “earthquaked jail”, and performed miracles like casting a demon out of a girl and healing people even with his handkerchiefs. He wrote over half of the New Testament, and communicated in detail what it meant to follow Jesus. He was a man of tireless works who endured many hardships.

Even with this action-packed resume, and even with all the miracles he performed, the one “miracle” that stands out most to me was his supernatural ability to be truly content in all circumstances. The Greek word he used for content is “chortazó,” and it means fed, fattened, filled, or satisfied. I’ve put on a few extra pounds lately, so I can kind of relate to the “fattened” definition of contentment, but satisfied?

Paul’s words in Philippians 4 are very well-known, and I personally think about them often, especially at times when I feel down or worried about circumstances that don’t even compare to Paul’s being shipwrecked, hungry, or unfairly imprisoned.

Spoiler Alert: A big part of the secret is giving.

I think we all want to learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, and I think we all know the answer is Jesus. But I believe the answer lies deeper in knowing and emulating the loving heart of Jesus that moved Him to give. Jesus gave up the comfort of heaven and ultimately His life. Paul followed Jesus in an active life of giving, and I’m convinced his actions played a large role in knowing the “secret” of true contentment.

So, do we all have to sell our house and become missionaries to a foreign land in order to get in on the secret?

Probably not all of us. (Even though it would most likely cause all of us to experience a contentment like we never have before.)

But look what Paul also said in the same letter to the Philippians, as he talks about the generous offering they sent him while he was imprisoned:

Philippians 4:17-18 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (NIV)

Credited to Your Account

Each of us would be thrilled to have someone depositing more and more money into our bank accounts, and that’s only money we can’t take with us when we die. By giving to those in need, we are storing up treasure in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21)

Pleasing to God

Paul said that the missionary offering the Philippians gave him was a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. They gave the gift to Paul, but it is as if they were giving the gift to God. In Matthew 25:40, (Jesus said) “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Whatever we do and whatever we give for “the least of these,” we are doing for Jesus. And simply put, making God happy makes us happy.

Precious Lord, May my affections for treasures of this world decrease and my desire to store up treasures in heaven increase. Help me to notice and to give to at least one person in need this week, for you say it would be like doing it unto You. May my giving be an acceptable sacrifice to You, and may my gifts bring You joy that will in turn fill my heart. Amen.

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