Philippians 4:10-23

Poverty and need are not strong enough to rob you of joy unless you let them. As we look at this text, we will see that neither the joy of Paul nor the joy of the Philippians was dampened by their need and/or their poverty.

Now, in many ways, this passage has a lot to say about contentment and also about how we view money, giving, and what we have. So let me say a few things about giving and the basic, foundational biblical principles regarding money and giving. It is always worthwhile to review them, and we need to understand them before we can really understand Paul’s message.


As you know, in the Old Testament, God’s people were expected to give a tithe, which means 10 percent. Ten percent of their gross income was to go to the Lord, and that 10 percent went specifically to the Levitical priestly ministry to fund God’s work. Now, on top of the 10 percent, God’s people were to give additional gifts to the poor, the needy, the widows, the orphans, and the strangers, and when you totaled it up, the giving in the Old Testament usually reached up to 25 percent or more.

In the New Testament, four principles for giving are laid out in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. In these chapters, Paul tells us that our giving is to be sacrificial, regular, cheerful, and proportional. These are worth noting:

A. Giving sacrificially. Ask yourself: Is my giving sacrificial? Does it cost me anything in the sense that I have to sacrifice something else in my life because I give back to God? Many of us are stuck here. Before we give, we want to make sure that we have everything we need and want. What are you willing to sacrifice for the Lord? Cable television? Eating out? An exotic vacation? The new car versus the older car?

B. Giving regularly. Regular giving means not just once a year, not just every several months, but on a regular basis—weekly or every other week if that is how you are paid.

C. Giving cheerfully. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver.”

D. Giving proportionally. Is your giving proportional to your income?

Every believer needs to apply those four foundational principles to his or her own giving.


We do not teach prosperity theology; we preach stewardship. Prosperity theology essentially teaches that if you just have enough faith and if you give to God, then God will bless you with material prosperity. This theology teaches that Jesus wants you to have victory in the sense that if you are just faithful enough toward Him, if you just have enough faith, pray hard enough, and give enough, then He will reward you with prosperity, with the income you have always wanted, with the car and the house and the vacations and whatever else you want. This theology teaches that God is a kind of a financial broker you invest with, and if you invest enough financially with Him, He will bless you financially in return.

What we teach here is stewardship. Stewardship means that we use the money God entrusts to us to advance His church and kingdom. God wants our faithfulness in the little things. If we can’t be faithful with the little He gives us, He is certainly not going to give more. If we can be faithful with the little things, He may entrust us with more (Matt. 25:23).

Let’s move on and look at Paul’s situation and his joy through contentment and the Philippians’ joy through generosity.


In verses 11 and 12, Paul shows that he has learned to be content. Paul knows that the secret of being content is found in thankfulness and appreciation for what God provides, not in wanting what you don’t have. You see, the only way to be content is to be thankful for what God has provided and is providing. And when you are thankful and content, you have joy.

A. Contentment is a choice. All contentment is a choice because thankfulness is a choice. You choose to be thankful for what you have; it is a conscious choice to look at God as your Father and understand that He is providing and sustaining you and that every breath you take, everything you eat, and everything you have is a gift from Him—given out of love and care for you.

B. The opposite of contentment is covetousness. If there is anything that robs us of contentment, it is coveting—wanting something that belongs to someone else. Paul found contentment, and the secret was in his appreciation of what God provided for him. Even if God didn’t provide him the food or the clothing he needed, he trusted that God would provide the strength he needed to make it through anyway (see verse 13). His contentment was based on thanksgiving and gratitude that filled him with joy. Specifically, he was also appreciative of the gifts that God had provided through the Philippians to him while he was in jail.


Paul goes on to comment about the Philippians’ gifts and their generosity toward him, and he makes it clear from the very beginning that he appreciates their willingness to share with him. He talks about that in verses 15 and 16 and mentions how, even in the early days of their acquaintance with the gospel, they were willing to give. In fact, when no one else gave, they gave.

A. Our generosity comes from God’s grace. The source of our generosity is the grace God has provided on the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the perfect expression of God’s generosity to us—He gave us His one and only Son. In the cross, you see Christ’s generosity in His willingness to give everything, including His life, for us. Through the cross, God poured out His grace upon us with incredible generosity. And when you have experienced the grace of God, it will change your heart and life, making you more grace-filled and therefore more generous yourself.

B. Generosity and joy are intertwined. From this passage, you see that when you are filled with joy, you will be generous. But the opposite is true, too; generous people are also joy-filled people. The two go hand-in-hand. So, poverty does not take away joy because our generosity comes from God’s grace.

When we worship God with our money by giving generously, trusting Him to provide our every need in Christ Jesus, we will find joy. When we worship our money, we will find that we lack the joy we really want.


Joy has nothing to do with material possessions. You can live in complete poverty and have joy. When you are content and thankful to God for what He has provided, you can be generous. Paul makes this clear in verse 19. In other words, God will continue to provide for you “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Be thankful for what He has given you. Trust that He will continue to meet your needs and be generous. Out of that generosity will come joy!