A short devotion written for Echoes International magazine in 2010.
How do we support those engaged in mission work? Paul (e.g. Colossians 4:2-6) asks quite specifically for prayer and no work of God will prosper without the faithful prayers of God’s people. But, as we would expect, Paul doesn’t shy away from the thorny issue of financial support for God’s work or that, if we wish to be true partners in mission, we must be ready to give financially. The partnership that Paul shows us here, embraces those who are ‘in the field’ and those who are supporting it financially. And he shows us how each of those should view their respective roles.
Those who receive
Paul uses his own situation to exemplify three attitudes we should expect from those who receive financial support.
Firstly, he rejoices ‘greatly in the Lord’ (:10). For the missionary, receiving financial support is a tangible sign of the partnership other Christians have with them. For this reason, not so much because it allows them to live – it is a cause for rejoicing.
Secondly, he has learned to be ‘content in any and every situation’ (:12). Not an easy thing to do for any of us but an attitude which is vital for the missionary.
Thirdly, he is grateful as he acknowledges the gift and recognises the Philippians’ earlier support of him (:15-16). Those who receive support, should voice their gratitude to the donors just as Paul does here.
Those who give
So what about the givers? Why should we give to God’s work if those who receive whatever we choose to give should simply be grateful and get on with things? Paul gives four reasons.
Firstly, we give out of concern for the individual involved (:10). Giving financially is a practical expression of true Christian love.
Secondly, we give because in so doing we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matt 6:20). My wife and I come from two different countries, and serve in a third, so we have bank accounts in all three. When we transfer money from one to the other, the first account goes down, the second goes up. We are, though, no richer or poorer, we have simply transferred the money. That is how Paul wants the Philippians to see their giving to him. They are to give, not so much as a gift to him, but so that it ‘may be credited to [their] account” (:17). When we give to God’s work our finances are not reduced, the amount is simply transferred to our heavenly account.
Thirdly, we give in order to please God (:18). When we give to God’s work, Paul tells us God sees this as a ‘fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice’ which is ‘pleasing to God’. These words echo those of Romans 12:1-2 (indeed the last phrase is identical) and suggest that giving to God’s work is part of what is expected of the Christian.
Fourthly, Paul gives a promise to those who give; one which is often (incorrectly) applied to those who receive (:19). He says that as we give to supply the needs of those reliant upon our financial support, God will supply all our needs. He turns our normal way of thinking on its head. God will supply all our needs as we, in true, practical partnership, supply the needs of others.