Today is our financial presentation, and I thought I’d share from Philippians today for communion. There are two reasons for this.
First, Philippians was written by Paul to thank the disciples in Philippi for their financial support. The context is totally appropriate for today. Second, since Paul had giving on his mind, he actually used some accounting language in the book, which is interesting.
Paul supported himself by making tents, which meant he was a businessman. He had to buy supplies, sell his goods and earn a profit. He had to have a system to track his payments and collections, so he must have had a basic knowledge of accounting.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. -- Philippians 3:4-11
If you know anything about accounting, there are two or three basic financial reports that are universal.
The profit and loss (or income statement) shows your income and expenses, and the difference between the two is your net income (or profit, or loss). The balance sheet shows all of your assets and liabilities, and the difference between the two is your equity (or value, or net worth).
Paul begins here by listing all of the things that would show up on his worldly balance sheet, his statement of value. His spiritual pedigree, his legalistic righteousness, his zeal for the truth were all top-notch. He was also well-educated, and he was a Roman citizen as well. His list of assets was long and impressive.
But when Paul became a disciple, his balance sheet changed. Sometimes companies make one-time accounting adjustments. When Paul became a disciple, he “wrote off” all of those assets from his balance sheet. Actually, he may have even reclassed them as liabilities (another lesson for another time).
So his new balance sheet had only one asset at the top — knowing Christ. Nothing else had any value in comparison.
This is convicting to me, because my life and my value don’t always have that simple, singular focus. I worry about a lot of things, I’m a perfectionist, I’m always trying to do great at everything, I have a hard time being still. Often it seems like my work, or my family, or my church responsibilities, or my ice dams on my roof are worth more than knowing Christ.
Let’s all take a minute right now and meditate on our own personal balance sheet. There’s only one thing that really gives our lives value, and that’s knowing Christ.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. -- Philippians 4:14-17
Once Paul became a disciple, he continued to make tents. To the extent that people supported him, he could preach full-time. He wrote this letter to express his gratitude to the Philiippians for their support—they were sacrificial and consistent over time, even when his preaching didn’t benefit them directly.
But he slips in another accounting reference here. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. When they helped to support Paul, he says that even though he got the cash, they got the income—it was credited to their account.
When we give to God, he gets the cash, but we get the income. Isn’t this what Jesus said in Luke 6:38 (“give, and it will be given to you”)?
So as we give today, we put our check in the plate, God gets the cash, but the income accrues to us!