Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Fragrance Pleasing to God

“I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
Philippians 4:18 ESV

Paul has received kind and generous support from the Philippian Christians. He thanks and encourages them here for their pattern of godly behavior. 

Paul describes the abundant gifts he received from them in v. 18. He says they are:

1. A fragrant offering. 

This speaks to an aroma wafting from them like a nice cologne or perfume, or like the smell of a rose exploding in bloom. It's ultimately an offering because it's to their Lord, Jesus. In this, Paul applauds theIr effort and then elevates it.

2. A sacrifice. 

This continues down the road of sacrificial offering to Jesus. That is, a very costly gift. It's giving until it hurts. 

3. A sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 

Not just something that is costly and painful to give--it's pleasing to God. 

God accepts it because it's given in the spirit of the law of Christ--selfless love. Loving their neighbor (in this case, Paul) as themselves, they give to him abundantly and sacrificially. This is clearly something they did by faith. In other words, they did it even though they may not know where the money for their own needs will come from. The early church was full of recently impoverished people. This faith "pleases" God. (C.f. Hebrews 11:6)

So in describing the Philippian's gift to him, Paul exalts them and blesses them with encouraging words so they'll repeat this behavior and live with this attitude of gratitude and generosity. 

For me, this has at least two applications.

First, I should get more comfortable giving until it hurts--especially to those in need serving the Lord in the mission field. 

Paul is under house arrest in Rome at this point. He's under arrest because of his missionary activity. While he's learned to be content in all circumstances, it's no doubt encouraging to receive gifts and money to provide for his many physical needs. 

Second, I must remember that many brothers and sisters in Christ are sacrificially giving to the Church. As a pastor, it's easy to think that people should grow up and give as God teaches them to. It's easy to get frustrated with the lack of giving in the face of so much need. It's easy to focus on what's not happening and miss what is happening. 

Lord, help me give and receive gracefully and graciously. Give me a grateful heart! Keep me from unfair and misinformed judgments. Find me generous and cheerful in my giving. Help me live as if Jesus' words, "It's more blessed to give than to receive" are actually.

Thank you for the priceless gift of your son Jesus Christ. He saved my life. I give you mine.