I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.
You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Happy the man who fears the Lord,
who takes delight in all his commands.
His sons will be powerful on earth;
the children of the upright are blessed. (R./)
The good man takes pity and lends,
he conducts his affairs with honour,
The just man will never waver:
he will be remembered for ever. (R./)
With a steadfast heart he will not fear.
Open-handed, he gives to the poor;
his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes."
"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your heats; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."
Whereas yesterday's parable blamed the dishonest steward, today Paul commends his reliable co-workers who played their part in the service of the gospel. Conditions in the prison cell from which he wrote may have been fairly grim. But simply knowing that his friends had not forgotten him was good for his morale. Even while thanking them for sending him a gift, he tells them that he can hold on and cope with his circumstances, both when he has decent food to eat or must go hungry. He has adapted to his environment and even made a virtue out of necessity. Like Paul, we may be embarrassed to need the help of others, but he is gracious in thanking his friends for whatever they have sent him. Their parcel did more than make his prison cell more pleasant; it comforted him to know he was not forgotten, and that they still cared for him.
How aware are we of the needs of other people? We need to be both givers and gracious receivers. After giving what we can to people who need us, we should also cheerfully accept our dependency on others in various ways. What goes around comes around. Long before Karl Mark expressed the human ideal of "To each according to their need; from each according to their ability," it was clearly there in the teaching of Jesus and of Saint Paul. The gospel teaches to make charitable use of whatever we have and not be slaves of money. In money matters, what financiers think important may be negligible in the eyes of God. If we are faithful in such small matters, we can look forward to greater things.
There's a big difference between the tangible assets and the spiritual riches associated with good works that prepare us for life with God. Whatever wealth that people have should be well used, in such a way as to prepare us for sharing in eternal life. Jesus set a high premium on the spirit of sharing and community, as would happen within a united family. "You cannot serve God and wealth," but if use money responsibly and well it can be part of our service to God,
Paul praises his friends in Philippi for sharing their material resources with others, including himself. He remembers how they were among the first to support him with gifts of money when he was a travelling preacher. Now, writing from prison, he thanks them for the help the gifts to him through their messenger Epaphroditus.
At the same time he asserts that he does not depend on money or on any commodity and that there is nothing he cannot bear, with the help of the Lord. His strength, his security, rested on Jesus and this gave him real inner freedom. We need never become materialistic "slaves of Mammon." Acting with ordinary decency in our everyday dealings will have its own reward, both now and in the life to come. "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much."