I’ll continue to consider Contribute (κοινωνοῦντες, a form of κοινωνέω) to the needs (χρείαις, a form of χρεία) of the saints, pursue hospitality. And as you Philippians know, at the beginning of my gospel ministry, Paul wrote, when I left Macedonia, no church shared (ἐκοινώνησεν, another form of κοινωνέω) with me in this matter (λόγον, a form of λόγος) of giving (δόσεως, a form of δόσις) and receiving (λήμψεως, a form of λῆψις) except you alone. For even in Thessalonica on more than one occasion you sent something for my need (χρείαν, another form of χρεία).
Here I begin to investigate contribute / shared in and the needs of the saints simultaneously. Paul began this section of his letter with the words, I have great joy (Ἐχάρην, a form of χαίρω) in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me. He didn’t say, I was really pissed off because you haven’t sent me any money in a long time. Young’s Literal Translation is clunkier in style but probably carries the tone better: And I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye flourished again in caring for me, for which also ye were caring, and lacked opportunity…
Was Paul worried about them? It’s very likely: there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern (μέριμνα) for all the churches, He wrote the Corinthians. The Philippians had shared with him in the past, but then lacked opportunity. Could it imply something more than lack of opportunity? Thankfully, no. Now I know you were concerned (ἐφρονεῖτε, a form of φρονέω) before but had no opportunity to do anything.
Paul (and the NET translators) went out of his (their) way to say that he shared the joy (χαρὰ) of the Holy Spirit greatly (μεγάλως) in the Lord, because the Lord had kept the Philippians in Paul’s absence, and when the opportunity presented itself again the Lord’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in and through the Philippians expressed itself in tangible concern (φρονεῖν, another form of φρονέω) for Paul.
Am I adding words here? Yes, I am, but I believe I have the heart of Paul and the Holy Spirit. In Greek χαρὰ (joy) comes from χαίρω (rejoice). But in the fruit of the Holy Spirit our χαίρω comes from his χαρὰ. I tried (and failed, I think) to express a similar joy to my daughter when she picked me up at the airport.
I’ve known her since she was six-years-old, too small to drive. I remember helping her learn how to drive. I shared her anxiety when she failed her first driver’s test, and her elation when she passed the second. But there is no way her mother or I would have been comfortable asking her to navigate airport traffic then. I remember taking a taxi from the airport to the hospital where she lay pathetically, helplessly in a hospital bed after a stroke.
I remember what it was like when she and her brother and her mother greeted me at the airport. And I remember when their greetings became more and more infrequent, until there were none at all. And I certainly know what it is like now to land at the airport and make my own way home to a dark, empty apartment.
When she pulled up to me, waiting at the curb at the airport, yes, my daughter saved me some taxi fare (though I may have spent as much or more filling her empty gas tank). But the money had nothing to do with my joy. I lacked the presence of mind to say to her, I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, though it’s clear to me now that’s what I meant.
I am not saying this because I am in need (ὑστέρησιν, a form of ὑστέρησις), Paul continued, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. And this is the context of an often misquoted verse (Philippians 4:12, 13 NET):
I have experienced times of need (ταπεινοῦσθαι, a form of ταπεινόω) and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.
This last verse came up out of context in the movie Soul Surfer. There will be spoilers here for those who haven’t seen it. And please remember I’m not saying anything about the real Bethany Hamilton. I don’t know Bethany Hamilton. I’ve never even read her book. I’m writing about a character in a movie named Bethany.
“Soon,” Tom answers.
“How do you know?”
“Because [you] can do all things,” Tom prompts her.
She trains hard with this hope and learns to surf again on a very small board. But when she tries to compete she discovers, “I can’t do this anymore!…I don’t understand. What happened to ‘I can do all things’?” Thus Philippians 4:13 is laid to rest in Soul Surfer.
It’s not a big deal if one knows what Philippians 4:13 actually means. Earlier in the film she won graciously. Here she lost; she failed. It was one of those times of need Paul wrote about. The Greek word translated times of need was ταπεινοῦσθαι, to depress, to humiliate, to make low, bring low. And Bethany did learn to be content when she was depressed, humiliated, made low.
She returns to competition and has a tremendous ride that would have assured her win if it were not disqualified for starting past the allotted time of the final heat. With a peace and joy that surpasses even Tom’s understanding Bethany is as gracious in defeat at the end of the movie as she was in victory near the beginning.
“Are you upset you didn’t win today?” a reporter asks.
“I didn’t come to win. I came to surf,” Bethany answers.
She can do all this—be content in times of need and times of abundance as it related to losing and winning surfing competitions—through him who gives her strength. Conversely, if one doesn’t already know what Philippians 4:13 actually means, it probably won’t be gleaned from Soul Surfer. After the hard-work montage preceding the final competition the message of the film on that count is something like he-who-gives-me-strength is not as good at making one a world class surfer as hard work. This is a true message by the way. People become world class surfers by training hard, irrespective of their faith in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, if your goal is to share in the righteousness of God, the best your hardest work can achieve is hypocrisy. You will be an actor, play-pretending at righteousness. AnnaSophia Robb is one of the best young actors in the business, but Bethany Hamilton and Alana Blanchard did the difficult surfing scenes. Hard working actors don’t become doers (poets) of the law either. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”
Nevertheless, you did well to share with (συγκοινωνήσαντες, a form of συγκοινωνέω) me in my trouble, Paul continued. And again, he emphasized, I do not say this because I am seeking a gift (δόμα). And, For I have received everything, and I have plenty. I have all I need because I received from Epaphroditus what you sent – a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, very pleasing to God. Rather, I seek the credit (καρπὸν, a form of καρπός) that abounds to your account (λόγον, a form of λόγος). I’m not so sure about translating fruit (καρπὸν) credit here. The account, of course, is the λόγον each of us will give to God. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say, I shared with Paul in his trouble?
My point, however, is that we trust God to work in us and through us by his Spirit, rather than second-guess Him by trying to establish our own works. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them. And my God will supply your every need (χρείαν, another form of χρεία) according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. There is no quid pro quo here: Send money to Paul and his God will supply your every need. Paul’s God supplies the desire and wherewithal to contribute as surely as He supplies every other need. May glory be given to God our Father forever and ever. Amen.
In Soul Surfer when Bethany is depressed, humiliated and made low, Tom attempts to encourage his daughter. Cheri (Helen Hunt), Bethany’s mother, effectively shuts him down. “Listen to her,” she says. But when Bethany is ready to compete again, she comes to her father, working in his surfboard shed, saying, “Hey, Dad, I need your help.”
Bethany has analyzed her problem. With only one arm she can’t duck dive under the big waves paddling out to the line. She gets caught, tumbling under water, in the impact zone. Her father smiles, reaches up into the rafters and retrieves a surfboard, already prepared for her, with a handle in the center of the board she can grasp with one hand to duck dive.
The first of the needs (χρείαις, a form of χρεία) of the saints listed in the New Testament comes from the mouth of John, baptizing in the Jordan River. Jesus came to him to be baptized but John protested, “I need (χρείαν, another form of χρεία) to be baptized by you…” He had already described Jesus’ baptism by contrast to his own: I baptize you with (ἐν, or, in) water, for repentance…He will baptize you with (ἐν, or, in) the Holy Spirit and fire.
As an introduction to how we should pray Jesus promised, your Father knows what you need (χρείαν, another form of χρεία) before you ask him. Are we afraid to approach Him? When religious people questioned Jesus’ disciples, why he ate with sinners, He answered, “Those who are healthy don’t need (χρείαν, another form of χρεία) a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus vigorously defended his followers from the judgment of the religious: “Look, why are they doing what is against the law on the Sabbath?” they said as his disciples walked through the field plucking grain to eat. “Have you never read what David did when he was in need (χρείαν, another form of χρεία) and he and his companions were hungry,” Jesus asked them, “how he entered the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the sacred bread, which is against the law for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to his companions?” But Jesus didn’t let it drop there. He took it one massive step further, saying, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. For this reason the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
And finally, I come to a tale of two sisters, Martha and Mary. It is particularly interesting to me because I think I was a Martha who wants to be a Mary (Luke 10:38-42 NET):
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened (ἤκουεν, a form of ἀκούω) to what he said. But Martha was distracted (περιεσπᾶτο, a form of περισπάω) with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work (διακονεῖν, a form of διακονέω) alone? Tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed (χρεία). Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.”