But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me has flourished again; wherein you were also careful…
The Philippians, having sent by Epaphroditus certain love-tokens to the apostle, must have a receipt from the magnanimous receiver. Most likely they were not of much intrinsic value, but Paul's great heart rejoices over them and calls them "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well-pleasing unto God." At the same time, he lets them know that he could have been content without these love-tokens, though he is delighted with them; for he has learned the lesson of the years, to be content with any state in which a loving Lord might be pleased to place him. And here we have to notice -
I. CONTENTMENT IS AN ART. (Ver. 11.) It must be "learned." We cannot acquire it at a bound. We must serve our apprenticeship to it as to any other art. It is not a science to be theoretically mastered, but an art to be practically obtained. We must go to the "school of art," we must set ourselves earnestly as scholars to learn the lesson, and we must "keep our hands in" by constant practice.
II. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT MAKES LITTLE OF ITS WANTS. (Vers. 11-13.) Paul had not sent any word to Philippi about his needs. He had become so superior to circumstances that abasement and abundance made no difference to him. Faith in Christ made him independent. It is the humble spirit which trusts the omnipotent Savior which proves to be really the independent spirit. It is humility and independence which always go together. When we control our desires, minimize our wants, we can reach independence more really than by acquiring vast estate. The rich are often discontented. Their desires outstrip all acquisition, and they are discontented in spite of their abundance.
III. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT MAKES MUCH OF ITS BOUNTIES. (Vers. 12-18) With the independence Paul manifests magnanimity. See how he speaks of the attention of the Philippians. He makes it out that they have been always sending to him - that every time they had an opportunity they were sending him their love-tokens. "Once and again" they had sent to his necessity. Now, it requires a big contented spirit to take the kindness of others cordially. Emerson says, "You cannot give anything to a magnanimous person. After you have served him he at once puts you in debt by his magnanimity. The service a man renders his friend is trivial and selfish compared with the service he. knows his friend stood in readiness to yield him, alike before he had begun to serve his friend and now also. Compared with that good-will I bear my friend, the benefit it is in my power to render him seems small. Besides, our action on each other, good as well as evil, is so incidental and at random that we can seldom hear the acknowledgments of any person who would thank us for a benefit without some shame and humiliation. We can rarely strike a direct stroke, but must be content with an oblique one; we seldom have the satisfaction of yielding a direct benefit which is directly received. But rectitude scatters favors on every side without knowing it, and receives with wonder the thanks of all people." In the same way, we find the magnanimous Paul making as much of the kindness of the Philippians as led them, we may be sure, to wonder at such mention being made of their gifts at all.
IV. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT LOOKS AT ALL IN A SPIRITUAL LIGHT. (Vers. 19-23.) Paul was glad of their gift, for it was spiritual "fruit." It was a benefit to them more than to him. Did they not realize that "it is better to give than to receive"? They had pleased God by their goodness to his servant. And he would supply all their need, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. He would give them spiritual compensation. They would get a benefit in soul which was cheaply bought by what they had given. He then sums up the joy-inspiring Epistle with salutations, among others, from those saints in Caesar's household. This shows what success Paul's mission had enjoyed at the capital, how even the entourage of the emperor had felt the spell of the aged prisoner. Paul had shown that he could live a heavenly, joyful, contented life, in spite of his imprisonment and possible martyrdom. The hero made heroes of others. The guardsmen who were chained to him cleaved to him in love May such a celestial life be ours! - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.