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Devotion for July 29, 2008

In a study on the development of financial giving to missions, one scholar noted, “Baptist women demonstrated that giving small amounts systematically was more effective than the occasional big offerings. . . . Women usually did not have large sums of money, but they did have the butter, egg, and knitting money to drop into empty sugar bowls. . . . Even the poor could experience the dignity of giving.”

Yesterday we saw the context for the generosity of the Philippians. This impoverished, persecuted church still responded joyfully at the opportunity to give to God’s work. In our reading today,  we see that this generosity was a habit. They had been supporting Paul since the formation of the church in Philippi.

After his discussion of contentment, Paul acknowledged that indeed his circumstances had been “troubles” (v. 14). The Philippians were not fair-weather friends, only supporting Paul when things were going well and criticizing him when his situation was bleak. (It seems that some in Corinth did attack Paul when his circumstances were difficult.) They were happy to identify with Paul and support him.

Even when other churches had been reluctant to financially contribute to Paul’s missionary efforts, the Philippians faithfully gave. This habit began early (v. 15). Paul indicated that when the Philippians encountered the gospel, their reaction was generosity. This fits with the examples of Lydia and the Philippian jailer, both of whom responded immediately with hospitality when they embraced Christ (see Acts 16).

Even though Paul had just described his contentment, he didn’t ignore the practical reality of having needs (v. 16). Paul was not a Stoic or Gnostic, pretending that physical, material needs didn’t exist or didn’t matter. Providing for these real needs was an important way of supporting his spiritual work of evangelism, church planting, and teaching. The Philippians partnered with Paul “again and again” for the sake of the gospel.

Apply the Word

Yesterday we discussed an attitude of generosity for all our resources. Today, let’s focus on a habit of financial generosity for God’s work. Are you contributing what you can to missionary endeavors? Perhaps you could support the missions program at your church or contribute to a school that is training and preparing missionaries. With God’s work being done from U.S. urban centers to jungle tribes, pray about which ministry of the gospel you can support financially.

BY Heather Moffitt, Managing Editor

Heather Moffitt has served as managing editor of Today in the Word since 1999. She loves working with the talented team of writers, editors, and production staff to ensure that insightful devotional studies reach our readers each month. Heather also loves running, whitewater rafting, travel, and singing in a Gospel Choir.

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