The Reward of the Gift
Lisa Cooke

The Reward of the Gift by Lisa CookeIn the fourth chapter of Philippians, a “fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” has arrived from the Philippians to Paul through Epaphroditus. This is not the first time the they have sent aid to Paul as he journeyed through the land, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to all who would listen. These people once and again have given offerings of their livelihood so that others may benefit from the ministry of Paul. Out of love for Paul and love for the spread of the gospel, the Philippians have become givers.

There is no better foundation for giving than that of love. We know that if we give away all we have, even to the point of giving up our bodies to be burned, but have not love, we gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). Our devotion to God and for His Kingdom is continuously revealed through the variety of sacrifices we make and the offering up of our lives, including financial giving. When the root of our generosity is love, God is honored and pleased.

Thanksgivings to God will also abound from our generosity. 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 says “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

Paul expresses gratitude in the book of Philippians for the gifts that were sent to him; he “rejoiced in the Lord greatly” (Philippians 4:10). I’m sure he felt the love of the church in Philippi as expressed in their giving. But he also loves them, and in Philippians 4:17 the love of Paul is revealed.

“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

There is a maturity of perspective here that makes me stop and think about the type of love Paul had for these people. He sees their giving as a means not only to further the spread of the Gospel on earth, or a way for his needs to be supplied, but he also sees the future reward that givers will receive of the Lord. Paul is not selfishly coveting financial support from the church, but is rejoicing that they will have fruit from their love in action before God.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary makes this interpretation of Philippians 4:17: “What I do seek is your spiritual good, in the abounding of fruits of your faith which shall be put down to your account, against the day of reward.” This is the kind of love in which “All our selfish feelings and gratifications may be absorbed and lost in the superior joy which we have in seeing others actuated by a right spirit, and in the belief that they will be rewarded” (taken from Barnes’ Notes on Philippians 4:17).

I believe Paul is once again setting an example for us to follow, especially those of us who receive offerings from others. We are to have the same attitude of rejoicing for the fruit which is abounding in the lives of the givers, for there will come a day when all will stand before God and will be rewarded according to their works, which includes their giving (2 Corinthians 5:10). If we truly love people with the God kind of love, then we seek their best interests at heart. “Seeking the fruit that increases to (their) credit” is doing just that.

Paul appears to be ever mindful of that which is of eternal value, the rewards that believers will receive in Heaven. He sees what God sees when someone gives. This is easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But God does not forget. Hebrews 6:10 says “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do.” We know from Matthew 10:42 that the smallest act of love will bring a reward, even when those acts are for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). I don’t believe that God is as concerned about the magnitude of our actions as He is about our watchfulness for opportunities great and small to be a blessing to others.

It is the responsibility of leaders to remind their people of the long range effects of their giving or their works of love. Jesus in Matthew 25:34-46 goes into a long discourse of this very thing. What we do or don’t do for each other has consequences, good or bad. In Philippians 4:17 Paul is taking the opportunity to remind us in a positive context that “whatever one sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Every member of every church is a recipient of the gifts that others have given. The years of generous givers have provided a building in which to meet, discipleship programs in which to grow, and services in which to worship God. Each of us has the opportunity to be a giver and a receiver in the body of Christ. Let us mature to the point where we can be a receiver who rejoices in the fruit that is abounding to the account of the giver, seeking first the Kingdom of God in our attitude toward each other.