On Philippians and finances

I wrote the following article for my church’s weekly email blast. 

Two weeks ago, I preached on Philippians 3:2-14, including Paul’s words in verse 8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” In the sermon I challenged us to consider ways that we’re not like Paul: While we have many opportunities to prove that everything is a “loss” compared to the “surpassing worth” of knowing Christ, too often we show that we treasure other things and other people more than him.

One obvious way we do this is by failing to tithe—that is, to give ten percent of our income to the Lord through the local church. This is a biblical standard for giving. As I said in my sermon,

If I fail to give ten percent of my income—a tithe—to the church, yet go to the movies when I want, and have all the data for my smartphone that I want, and have all the clothes that I want, and eat at Chick-fil-A as often as I want, how am I showing that money and possessions are a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ?

Brothers and sisters, if this describes you, I’m inviting you to change. Even more, I believe the Lord Jesus himself is calling you to change.

While none of us would question the need for Christians to pray, to worship, to give time and energy to serve Jesus, and to read and meditate on God’s Word, too many of us have come to regard financial stewardship—giving money to church—as an optional extra feature of faithful Christian living.

We give, but only if and when we perceive we can afford to give.

Yet the clear message from scripture is this: we can never afford not to give! It’s as necessary for our souls as prayer!

Paul himself makes this point in Philippians 4:14-20. In this passage, he thanks the Philippians for their generous financial support of him while he’s in prison. (In the first century, prisoners literally had to pay for their own room and board!) But he wants to make clear that he doesn’t need the money. As he’s already told them, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 11b-13).

What Paul wants, he says, is not their money; he wants a “profit that accumulates in your account” (CEB). He’s no longer talking about money. He’s talking about a spiritual profit in their heavenly account—blessings that God will give them because they have been generous in their financial giving. However this “profit” manifests itself in their lives—whether on this side of heaven or the other—it’s far better than anything they can purchase with money.

Not only that: As they give generously, Paul promises that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (v. 19 ESV).

The same is true for each of us who believes in Jesus Christ. As we submit our bank accounts to the lordship of Christ, God is faithful to supply our every need and to bless us spiritually. I can testify from personal experience that this is true. And I know many of you can, too. We have learned from experience that God is faithful as we give faithfully to him.

And starting this Sunday, on Stewardship Commitment Sunday, I want the rest of you to learn this as well.

I want you to commit to tithing. If you believe you can’t do that, I want you to take a definite step in that direction. Can you commit to eight percent? Six percent? If you’re already tithing, prayerfully consider whether our Lord wants you to give more than a tithe.

Whatever your decision, I want every church member and regular attender to fill out the Estimate of Giving card that you received last month. We will also have extra copies printed out on Sunday.

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