Philippians 4:10-15 – Generosity is Like a Warm Bowl of Grits

Jethro Bodine
Max Baer, Jr. playing the incomparable country as corn flakes Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only. (NIV)

In the English language, the words “you” and “your” can be either singular or plural. Unless, of course, we go with the southern “y’all.” But for a northerner like me, I’ve got to determine which by looking at the context that it’s in.  In the language of the New Testament, Greek, we know which words are singular and which are plural because, well, they’re different words which aren’t spelled the same.  It’s important to know in the book of Philippians that all the “you” pronouns are plural.  That’s important because the theme of unity and solidarity runs affectionately throughout the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi. In fact, for Paul, the reason he gibbers on so much about joy in his letter is because it’s only realized when unity is around. Unity really dills Paul’s pickles.

The entire Philippian church and not just those two really caring parishioners like Uncle Bundlejoy and Cousin Cozysweet, shared in Paul’s troubles with him. The whole kit-and-caboodle partnered with him through financial resources, prayer, and ministry.  Paul had confidence that every need the Philippians had would be supplied just as sure as God put worms in sour apples.

They learned a valuable lesson from Paul: that unity through generosity brings contentment in all circumstances and eases anxieties. The Philippian believers got a glimpse of the paradox that through giving they become rich. When tightwad believers are around, a church frets so much they could worry the horns off a billy goat. But when generosity settles in, people are more content than a flea on a pup.

Folks who only care about their personal needs and independent wealth aren’t right in the head – their cornbread’s not done in the middle. God wants everyone to know the blessing of working together in a worthy common cause.  Generosity and contentment go together like bacon and eggs. A charitable spirit in a group of people leads to more joy and happiness than a gopher in soft dirt.

Hoarding makes a church more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. If we want to be free of backbiting and worry, then we need to be wild about generosity. Give like the sun and the whole world grows tall.

Be generous with your money, generous with your words of encouragement toward others, and generous with your gratitude to God. Besides, giving is more fun than a sack full of kittens. And if you do give till you laugh, maybe you’ll see good ol’ Paul standing there grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato.

Generous God, your storehouse of grace and mercy is infinite and unending.  Help me to partner with you in a way that makes my generosity flow in the same direction yours does so that Jesus Christ is glorified, and his church is edified through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Way to Harmony

 
 
“When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ?  And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.” –1 Corinthians 10:16-17
 
            Imagine waking up in the morning eager to go to work.  The harmony between you and your co-workers makes for a happy work environment.  The challenges of accomplishing tasks are easy because you have a supportive boss.  The sales team communicates with you and your colleagues so that production happens with a seamless co-operation.  Lunch-time talk is discussing one another’s families and your hopes for the upcoming evening with them.
            Imagine going home and enjoying conversation around the dinner table with your loved ones.  Laughter, inside-jokes, hilarious stories about the day’s antics are shared with great food and great fun.  Everyone lingers at the table, enjoying the time and staying in their chairs to put a puzzle together.
            Imagine getting out of bed on Sunday morning with joyful anticipation in your heart of worshiping God with people of like mind.  You know the interaction with fellow believers in Jesus will be open, honest, sweet, and full of grace.  The wonderful relationships between God and people will be celebrated at the Lord’s Table….
            It could be that somewhere in those descriptions you pursed your lips with a “ppfffff” – like that’s gonna happen!”  That’s because you feel drained from the lunch-time gossip gab session at work; you couldn’t wait to finish supper at home because of the bickering between your kids at the table; and, you drag yourself out of bed on Sunday out of duty, knowing that the Lord’s Table will be just another ritual to do with people who don’t talk to each other across the divided aisle.
            There is someone who understood this reality first-hand, and knew that it really could be different – it could be a new reality that fulfills, even exceeds your imagination of harmony and unity.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the 1st-century Corinthian church to emphasize that the work of Jesus on the cross effected what we call “reconciliation” between God and people, and between each other as people.  This means that God, in Christ, has restored relations between us and God, and between one another.  The relations between the Corinthian believers had broken down into special interest groups, and there was no interaction or fellowship or participation between those various factions.  People basically just hung out with others who thought just like them, and did not care about what other people in the church thought; each group wanted their own way, and they had not yet learned how to work together and have true unity and fellowship with each other.
Participation in Christ, and participation with each other is the result of the reconciliation that has been applied to us because of the cross; and, it is this reconciliation that brings unity or one-ness to your church, to your workplace, and to your family, allowing you to work together and play well with others.  So, when we come to the Lord’s Table, it is this truth that we celebrate, enjoy, and re-create together.
            Jesus is not just someone we remember, but someone we participate in through the Lord’s Table.  Sharing the Table together brings healing and forgiveness, and builds up our faith so that we might joyfully live in the reconciliation that Christ has brought us.
            Therefore, we must live up to what we possess – our participation in Christ results in participation and fellowship and unity with each other.  Since we are forgiven, we work at being harmonious at church, at work, and at home.  This is symbolized by partaking of the same loaf of bread, and drinking from a common cup.

 

            Peace, harmony, unity, and fellowship begins with Jesus Christ.  Workplace enjoyment will happen with an intentional development of encouraging language on your part, based in your participation with Jesus.  Family harmony will come when you seek to live into the reconciliation bought for you with Christ’s body and blood.  Church unity will exist when you make things right between you and God, and you and others with the cross always at the forefront of your mind and heart.

Ephesians 4:1-6


             “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:  one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (NAB).
             The whole unity thing is quite important to God.  It isn’t just an ancillary or side issue to the real work of the church and the Christian life; it is very much at the center of Christianity.  Christians have been fashioned through the Holy Spirit into a single harmonious religious community of redeemed people, called to exemplify a counter-cultural presence in the world.  There is a solid theological reason for this:  God is one.  Just as the triune God exists as one deity in three persons, so the church is to reflect God’s image through its unified oneness.
             Although unity has been accomplished through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, the practical implications must be daily worked out.  This is why we are to strive, or to put significant effort, into having unity.  Simply getting along but harboring animosity is not unity.  Because two people are not at each other’s throats does not mean there is peaceful unity.  Unity only occurs when the Body of Christ works together in its diverse gifts toward a common goal of knowing Christ and making him known.  
             Yesterday, I laid down the challenge of praying chapter one’s prayer daily for two weeks – doing it with another person in the church will bring about a common unity of purpose, mind, and heart.  If there is to be church revitalization, personal renewal, and national revival, it will begin in the prayer rooms of unified believers.
             Blessed Holy Trinity, the God whom I serve, may your church on earth be one as you are one.  I pray our unity of love and purpose will transform individuals, churches, organizations, systems, and the entire world for the glory of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Romans 3:21-31


            Every letter which Paul wrote had its purpose to address some particular problem(s) in the church.  A common situation that Paul continually went after was the disunity between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile believers.  The Roman church had within it both groups of people.  Paul’s great concern was to not establish and maintain two distinct churches based in ethnicity, but one church completely centered in the person and work of Jesus.
             The problem was that many of the Jewish Christians thought they had a leg-up by simply being Jews.  They tended toward a certain arrogance in which they took for granted that new Gentile believers must also adopt Jewish ways.  But the Gentiles fared no better.  They believed the Jews to be hopelessly stuck in their traditions and tended to look down on their brothers and sisters.
             Into this situation Paul makes it clear that no group of people is better than the other because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift.”  This kind of teaching was like a sonic boom to the church.  Although both Jew and Gentile were to appreciate one another’s differences, those differences were secondary to the grand design of the church to show no favoritism.  All are sinners.  All come to Christ by grace through faith.  There is no ground for human boasting of pedigree or practice.
             The Western church today finds itself increasingly within a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural milieu not too unlike the early Roman church.  Taking a good close look at the book of Romans would be a wise approach to fostering corporate unity and personal spiritual formation.  For then we will see ourselves through biblical lenses.
             Just God, you are the one who justifies based upon your own good pleasure.  Thank you for delivering me from my wayward beliefs.  Help me to appreciate your gracious justifying work more and more, to the glory of Jesus.  Amen.