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.
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."
Just as yesterday Jesus reproached idle disciples for not showing enterprise and initiative, today Paul commends his active co-workers in the service of the gospel and stresses how he himself can cope in all circumstances, whether eating well or going hungry. The gospel, again, clearly tells us to make good use of this world's goods. How conscious are we of the needs of people who share this world with us?
In his prison cell, Paul adapted to his environment and even made a virtue out of necessity. "I know what it is to have plenty and how to go hungry." In effect, he says, "I know how to eat well when I have the good fortune to do so." Most of us might cringe at admitting this so publicly; sometimes we also hesitate to acknowledge how others have helped us. Paul shows healthy spontaneity in thanking his "dear Philippians," for their gifts. These did more than make life more pleasant in his prison cell; they comforted him at a time when no other local church sent anything to supply his needs.
We should accept our dependency on others while knowing how to maintain our dignity and self-respect. Paul advises us to share our own selves, our time, our insights, our ability and our sympathetic listening. Long before Karl Mark, he valued the principle, "To each according to their need; from each according to their ability." The gospel says unambiguously that we are to make charitable use of whatever we have and not be slaves of money. If we are faithful in such small matters, we can be trusted in greater things. And in financial matters, very often what humans think important, God holds in contempt.
Jesus makes a distinction between material riches and genuine riches and he associates genuine riches with heaven, the 'tents of eternity.' He calls us to use material riches in such a way that they prepare us to receive the genuine riches of eternal life. This involves using our material resources in the service of the Lord and his people.
St Paul singles out the church in Philippi as an example of those who use their material resources in the service of others, in particular, in the service of Paul himself. He remembers how in the early days of his preaching the gospel, the church in Philippi helped him with gifts of money. Writing from prison, he thanks them for the help they have sent him more recently. Knowing Paul was in prison, they sent gits to him by means of their messenger Epaphroditus. Paul is grateful for all this material assistance, and, yet, he declares that he is not dependant on it, because, as he says, 'there is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength', namely, the Lord. Paul found his strength, his security, in the Lord, and, therefore, he was free in regard to material possessions. Paul's life shows us that if we find our strength and security in the Lord we will feel no need or desire to become a servant of Mammon, in the words of the gospel.