Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 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. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
We find inspiration and encouragement through difficult times when we see people generously care for others. We are witnessing it right now as people donate to food pantries and support relief funds for people out of work. We have seen the same generous spirit in response to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. People like to feel a sense of common purpose and to know that their contributions, however small, join together to make a difference. For all our faults, we humans can sometimes be good and kind.
That’s how the church has always operated, even way back in the early days. People of faith share generously with one another during times of hardship and support the ministry of those who give themselves full-time to the gospel. Paul didn’t like asking for or accepting donations. He often supported himself by making and selling tents, a skilled trade somewhat like being a handyman today, but there were times, especially during his long house arrest in Rome, when he couldn’t work. In those times, Paul was forced to depend on the generosity of the church. He found their gifts to be not only sufficient to meet his daily needs, but also beautiful offerings that pleased God.
Again, that’s how the church has always operated. We depend on the generosity of God’s people to enable our shared ministry. Those, like me, who work full-time in ministry rely on the church’s faithful giving, but even more significantly, what we give enables the church to share the love and message of Jesus with people in need. That is our shared ministry, and every “fragrant offering” given by Jesus’ followers helps the church fulfill our mission. In addition to knowing that your giving enables Christ-honoring ministry, be assured that God has also promised to “meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
Father in heaven, thank You for Your generosity and compassion for people like me. Help me to be generous toward others, especially those who are hurting. Bless Your church with strength from Your Spirit and with all the resources we need to share Jesus’ love and message with the world. In my Savior’s name, Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian