Church Finances that Honor God - Philippians 4:14-20

Divine Joy For Our Earthly Journey - Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:30
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

I hope I have your attention.
We don’t talk about money much here. We don’t pass an offering plate to take up a collection, we don’t have regular sermons talking about money. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever preached on the issue of money in my life. But from time to time as we move through books of the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse, we come across passages that address money, and when we do, we talk about money.
When it comes to personal finance, money is a topic that makes people squirm when it is discussed in church. When it comes to personal finance, there are an abundance of passages that could be examined about how we are to think about and steward our finances.
Money is addressed so frequently in Scripture because of the effect that it can have on our hearts. Scripture itself bears witness that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
However, because there are so many so-called pastors who abuse texts that speak to money, there are negative stereotypes that exist when it comes to churches talking about money. And understandably so! When a so-called pastor fleeces the sheep in the name of heeling and seed sowing or whatever other tactic that might be used, it is not only ethically concerning, but it is wicked and demonic, and those who enrich themselves off the ministry will be judged for their actions.
But then there is the issue of church finances and how churches will spend their money. Such a topic is a cause for many fights, damaged relationships, power struggles, manipulative tactics, and it seems that everyone has an opinion for how church funds should be directed.
There are many ways that churches and individuals can go off the rails when it comes to finances, so we really ought to be grateful that Scripture speaks to it as often as it does, including our text today.
As we are winding down this letter to the Philippians, we find Paul addressing the church on a personal matter regarding their financial support of him as a minister. He expresses his appreciation for them and their support and as he does so, he gives us insight into how we can approach church finances in a God-honoring way.
A few pre-requisites that we need to understand as we move into this section.
The passage today discusses how churches direct the funds that they have.
What this passage doesn’t address is how they got those funds in the first place. Other passages of Scripture address that, here is a summary of what I believe Scripture would lead us toward in that regard:
It is Good to Give to the Local Church
1. I believe it is good to give to the local church and to the work of the ministry. 1 Cor 16:2 “2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper”
1 Corinthians 16:2 (ESV)
2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper
Notice is says “as he may prosper” indicating that this is not a strict 10% as many churches make it out to be, but in accordance with what you have.
Giving Should be a Delight
2. I do believe that members of a local church, ought to be delighted to help fund the ministry of the church. 2 Cor 9:7 “7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If there are concerns about the funds of the church, that should be addressed with the leadership. This doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation. Because its about money we make it out to be a bigger deal than it is.
Giving is an Act of Worship
In our passage today we will see that Paul says that financial gifts to fund ministry are ultimately to the Lord, and not to just to a local church or an individual in the case of missionary support.
Philippians 4:18 ESV
18 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.
Finally, there is a wisdom principle that states that pastors ought not to know who gives what in a church setting. There is not biblical passage to defend that practice, but it is considered good wisdom to insulate the pastor in this way. Why?
1. It allows me to preach messages like this without making me feel like I’m preaching directly at certain people. Many of us knows what that’s like and it’s not a fun experience.
2. It frees the pastor from the pressure and temptation to give preferential treatment to those who give more rather than those who give little or not at all. If I don’t know, it’s not even a temptation.
I know very little about who gives what at this church. Though we are a small church and I do have a hand in the finances simply by necessity because of our size, we have sought to insulate me from the counting as much as possible and I have not known who gives what outside of my own family for a little while now.
So that covers the issue of how churches come to have funds in the first place. For the rest of our time today we are going to examine from Philippians how a church can honor God with the use of those funds that come in.
We are in Philippians chapter four. We are going to see four principles from this text about church finances that I believe apply no matter what area of church finance we are dealing with, whether that’s supporting missionaries, as is the immediate context, or if we are talking about the day to day ministry activity of the church, these principles ought to observed when making budget decisions for the church.
Biblical Church Finances that honor God

1. Helps a Genuine Need

To see this, we are going to start in Philippians chapter 2, verse 25
Phil 2:25 “25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,”
The Philippian church had sent a financial gift to help support Paul, and Epaphroditus was the carrier of that gift. Back then there weren’t our modern methods of delivering mail, or direct deposit, or wire transfers. Epaphroditus had to carry the physical goods to Paul for his use. But notice that Paul says that he had a need, and the Philippians church helped to meet that need.
Go with me to chapter four and look at verse 10.
Phil 4:10 “10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.”
Last week we looked at this verse and noticed the genuine concern that the Philippians had for Paul when they became aware of his need. They were not always able to meet that need, but they did what they could when they could.
Now come with me to verse 14.
Phil 4:14 “14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”
The concept of sharing is the concept of partnership. They entered into a participation together with Paul in his ministry when contributed to his need.
The word for trouble speaks of suffering or oppression. Part of the reason for Paul’s need is because he was routinely being beaten and hauled off to prison. Any resources that he had on his person would have no doubt been taken from him.
The Philippians church came a long side to help Paul in his genuine need.
I think of the parable of the good Samaritan. To help the man who was beaten, the Samaritan had to risk his own safety by stalling in a dangerous area, get his own hands dirty by picking the man up, surrender his own means of traveling and walk so that the hurt man could ride the donkey, and pay money out of his own resources to the innkeeper until the man sufficiently recovered.
I hate to compare this to something so trivial, but there is an analogy in the stock market. When you invest in a company stock, you become, in a way, a participant in the company. The company’s gains are your gains, the company’s losses are your losses.
When we give to help a missionary, we are sharing in their joys and success, but also in their troubles and hardships.
The Philippians knew that, and they were willing to take that chance because it met a genuine need.
Church finances ought to be considered similarly. Will we take on this missionary or not? Will we spend toward this project or not. Will we increase or decrease our budgets in these other areas or not?
We must ask: is there a genuine need here?
Second, biblical church finance that honors God

2. Helps Further the Gospel

Look with me at verse 15.
Phil 4:15-16 “15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.”
As Paul acknowledges the help that Philippians provided and how they were his exclusive ministry partners for a time, there is an important point here that we don’t want to miss.
They were his exclusive partners, but in what?
In the Gospel.
When Paul says “from the beginning of the Gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me except you only” What does Paul mean by the beginning of the Gospel?
It could mean 1) it speaks from the time that Philippians first embraced the Gospel themselves or 2) it could refer to when they first entered into Gospel Partnership with Paul when he left their region.
Look with me back in chapter one verse 3-5.
Phil 1:3-5 “3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, ((WHY??)) 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
I believe that as soon as the church came to a place of belief in the Gospel, that they were overjoyed to support Paul in his ministry that others might hear, believe, and follow Christ just as they had done. They wanted others to know the of the Good News that they had come to believe, they wanted others to have the same life that they had.
So they eagerly entered into partnership with Paul to help advance the Gospel.
Paul seems to be praising them: You guys were on board from day one. He thanks them, not because he is dependent on them as we saw last week, but because it brings him joy to know that others care as much about he Gospel as he does.
He used the language of partnership again. That is how Paul consistently views others who give of their own resources to further the Gospel, they are partners in ministry.
Notice he refers to giving and receiving.
There is a sense in which supporting Gospel ministry is an investment. We are investing in the furtherance of the Gospel. We don’t get a financial return for that, but there is a blessing and reward for those who are faithful in this, as we will see in a few moments.
Finally as it relates to this point, notice in verse 16 how they gave “once and again”. Some translators view this as an idiom that speaks of regular ongoing support. It wasn’t a one time gift. They desired to be partners in the Gospel proclamation ministry of Paul.
When is comes to local churches and their use of funds, there are many things that we can spend money on. We have to ask the question: Will this further the Gospel? When we take on missionaries for support, our priority must be those missionaries that are serious about spreading the Gospel. Many go oversees and do mercy ministry, supply medical help, do building projects…those are all well and good, nothing against those things. But are they proclaiming the Gospel?? If not, then don’t call it missions work. Humanitarian work is not missions.
Our church finances locally and by extension to those we will by God’s grace one day support must help further the Gospel of Christ.

3. Is Ultimately Unto God, not Man

Pick it up with me at verse 17
Philippians 4:17–18 ESV
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 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.
Paul has made it clear that he is not dependent upon the Philippians. In other letters to other churches, Paul refused ministry income because accepting it in that circumstance would give the impression that the people were purchasing the Gospel, and Paul wanted to avoid that perception.
Paul would rather work with his hands than to take money and have people think he was enriching himself or that they were purchasing the ministry.
The point is this: the gift ultimately isn’t to Paul. He’s certainly the immediate beneficiary, but the gift is an offering to the Lord.
Paul says “I’m not seeking your money. I’m not trying to get your money because I need it. That’s not what I’m after.” In fact, he says he is well supplied!
Just as an aside, I wonder if Paul’s definition and our definition of “well-supplied” is close at all. My guess is that our definition of what it looks like to be well supplied is significantly wealthier than Paul. Food for thought.
But Paul says he is well supplied because of their gift, but notice how he describes their gift:
a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
This calls to mind the Old Testament sacrificial system where the Israelites used to offer up incense and and burnt offerings to the Lord, and this would please God as they walked in obedience to His command.
We are no longer under the sacrificial system, but the NT likens each believer as a priest who has direct access to God and we bring our sacrifices of our time, our energy, our praise, our resources and our very bodies before the Lord that He might use them as he would.
Such gifts are a fragrant aroma.
What are some of the best smells that every time you smell them, it is just a delightful experience. Some people like that new car smell. For others it might be that warm cozy campfire smell. Maybe its the smell of your favorite dish as its being cooked up. Others have their favorite cologne or perfume, although I feel like run into that less out here than I used to in Chicago.
There are some smells that just make us go “oh that smells good” and it’s pleasing to us.
Paul says that when we are concerned with helping others and we give to help further the Gospel…it’s a fragrant offering to God, pleasing and acceptable.
It is also a sacrifice. Giving your money means you don’t have it any more. You can’t spend it on something else. Though it is a sacrifice, it is one that is pleasing to God.
Even though our funds are directed towards individuals and ministries, ultimately, when we give to meet a need and give to help further the Gospel, we aren’t merely giving to a person or to a church body....we are giving to God. Our obligation is ultimately to God, and not other people.
That’s why Paul stressed the point so much about how is he doesn’t speak as though he were in need because he has learned to be content. He doesn’t seek the gift. He seeks the fruit that will be born from it. It’s not about Paul. It’s not about the immediate recipient. It’s not about the Philippians being obligated to Paul or Paul being dependent on the Philippians.
It’s about God, and thus our act of giving unto the Lord is an act of worship.
Finally, the last principle to see from this text today as we consider biblical church finances.

4. Is Blessed by God

Look at verse 19
Philippians 4:19 ESV
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
This is the promise from God through Paul to those who are willing to give of their resources to help others in need and further the Gospel.
They have sought to meet Paul’s need, God will supply their need.
2 Corinthians 9:5–9 ESV
5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
Some have turned this into a prosperity formula, and we want to avoid that. This is usually the approach of the prosperity Gospel preachers on TV who claim that God wants you health, wealthy, and prosperous, all you have to do to accomplish that is give me money.
That certainly isn’t the point. God doesn’t promise wealth and prosperity in that sense.
What he does promise is the care for his children. Our definition of what we need and God’s may differ, but we can rest and trust that this is true.
In an effort to distance themselves from the prosperity gospel, some have sought to dampen Paul’s apparent unqualified promise of the provision of God.
However, we need not slip into the errors of the prosperity gospel to by taking Paul at face value here. The text says what it says.
We should be careful, however to view this wholly in materialistic terms.
The phrase “my God will supply every need of yours” has a stress on the “every” need. Whatever the need may be, be that physical or spiritual. This coincides with what Paul said in verse 17 about seeking the fruit that increases to their credit, and I understand that fruit to be more spiritual than physical.
However, this does not meant he physical is not in view at all. Paul is praising God and how God has provided for his own need, and yet he has learned to e content with whatever things he has. He has discovered that his own needs are met and he is content with that, even when he is hungry. Even when he has very little.
So we may need to adjust our expectations, but we do have this promise that every need will need be supplied to us, and that will be done in accordance with His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
When we are stewarding our finances in accordance with Godly wisdom, we do have this promise, as individuals and as a collective church, that Our God will tend to our needs.
And in response Paul offers these words of praise to our God:
Phil 4:20 “20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
And that is how I want us to close our time together today. Praising our God.
Would you stand with me. We are simply going to sing the doxology, praising God for his care over us and his provision of every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Let’s sing.
Praise God From Whom all Blessings Flow
Let’s Pray
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more