I have heard the words, “God wants to give you everything you desire,” more times than I can remember. Supposedly, all you need is a good bout of faith and God will grant you whatever your heart desires. I cannot agree! Please allow me to explain. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” This verse has been misquoted and misused more than most Scriptures. The reason for this is that the text is taken out of context. I have heard preachers speak about a God who wants to give you more wealth than you could ever imagine, and they use this verse to encourage their listeners in pursuing their goals for wealth and prosperity. I am sure some of them are well meaning, but in my view, they have misunderstood the text.
As Christ followers, our chief aim in life should never be the gaining of material wealth. I cannot imagine a life more meaningless than simply pursuing that goal. I do believe God wants to meet our needs, but human needs are all relative. As a person living in the USA, what I perceive as a need in my life is probably a luxury for a person in another part of the world. So what does this text really mean?
Paul was thanking the Philippians who had given to him on many different occasions. He was also assuring them that God had seen their generosity and He would meet their needs in response to their generous giving.
The first point to note is that this Scripture encourages us to be generous with what we have. The text exhorts us to share our material wealth with others. I do believe it is also an encouragement to share in other ways - our talents, our time, our service and even our homes. God is a generous God, but I also believe that it is important that we are generous with what we have. I come from Africa, and although I do not live there any longer, I find I cannot close my eyes to the needs of my people in that land. I cannot simply pretend they do not exist. I want to be a part of the solution, and the one tangible way in which I can do that is by giving. I can give in different ways. I can go on a missions trip and serve and help people. I can send them provisions, or I can give financially. There are numerous ways to help. I am not suggesting how or what anyone should give, I am simply encouraging, as I believe this text does, a generous heart. Share with others, reach out to the needy and you will be blessed.
Secondly, God does want to meet our needs, but that doesn’t mean all our wants. Needs are quite different to desires. This text exhorts us not to become materialistic. We should not live aspiring for bigger and better. That is selfish and greedy. If we only live for ourselves, how empty our existence will be. We have to resist selfishness and greed. And I think the best way to resist is to share! It is important to note that Paul speaks in this chapter about his own needs. He says he knows what it is to have plenty and he also knows what it is to have little. And then he concludes his thought by saying that he, 'Learned to be content,' whatever the circumstance. In other words, there were many occasions when Paul did not have much and yet he could still be content.
Thirdly, I do believe that God is not subject to the current economic climate. So then, even if we live in a recession, we should not fear because God’s economy is greater than the economy we live under. I am not trying to be trite. I am simply saying that we should not live in dread of what could be, we should believe that whatever happens we will be safe in God’s keeping. And like Paul, we should rejoice when we have plenty and when we have little. Our happiness is never dependent on things.
Many of us reading this devotional are blessed to live in the United States of America, Europe, Australia or a country that has abundant resources. I think our response to the benefits of life should be: Thankfulness, generosity and a continued sense of trust in a God who has blessed our nations with resources. Let us not forget to pray and to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. Let us also be quick to thank God for what we have and not focus on what we do not have.
The next time you read this verse in Philippians, remember it is not exhorting you to greed, but to share! I encourage you to take a moment to thank God for His many blessings in your life. Then perhaps, you could pray for someone less fortunate than yourself and find a way to bless them.
I am and always will be,
Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,