Finances and Visits

“I have all I need, even in abundance. I have been fully provided for, having received from Epaphroditus that which was from you, a fragrant offering — a pleasing sacrifice — acceptable to God.”

(Philippians 4:18)

I think that we need not emphasize once again the significance of Paul being satisfied with whatever provision God had provided him and being grateful for the blessings sent to him through the church in Philippi. He was not a man who was always “wanting more” (apart from of the Spirit); he was a man who desired to serve and who trusted that God would provide for his physical needs.

Many of our translations have taken to rendering the first word of this verse as, “I have received payment…” or something akin to that. The Greek word in question is ajpe/cw (apecho). While the term can refer to receiving payment for goods or services offered, it can also refer to having enough to meet one’s needs at the moment — context simply determines how the word is used. Given all of the language that Paul has employed across the preceding verses, it seems odd for him to change gears and start talking about making payments, thus here I have chosen to render it as “I have all I need.”

Americans have gotten accustomed to throwing more money at a difficult situation in the belief that all problems are caused by a lack of funding. Please do not misunderstand, neither I nor Paul are saying that financial gifts are unimportant. Oftentimes those financial gifts, when rightly applied, can go a long way. At the same time, blindly throwing money in a given direction is often foolish and wasteful. And instead of just sending money in Paul’s direction, they sent money with Epaphroditus, a faithful believer and representative of the church, not only so that Epaphroditus could ensure that the funds arrived safely, but so that Epaphroditus could minister to Paul and serve alongside of him for a season. As we read the text of this letter, it is clear that while Paul has appreciated the financial support, what he valued most is the partnership in ministry that the presence of Epaphroditus represents.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if each of our churches that support missionaries with our finances, would have people from the church who were committed not only to praying for the missionaries but also who were committed to making an occasional visit to the missionaries as they serve on the field to work alongside of them, engaging in the ministry. Not only would it encourage the missionary workers, but it would also strengthen the vision of the congregation toward missions…reminding people that our work does not end at the borders of our communities…but that we are to make disciples of every nation. Indeed, perhaps in doing so, the missionary update letters back to our congregations might start looking more like Paul’s letter to the Philippians than a form letter that gets sent out to those who fund the missionary’s work.

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