“Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:17-19
Paul’s powerful reminder that he discovered spiritual contentment, no matter what his physical condition may be, preceded his gracious response to the generosity of his friends. There were those who had sacrificed in order to meet his needs. He wouldn’t forget what it cost them to provide for him. He closed his letter to the church with an inspiring “Thank You” note.
It is impossible to describe Biblical generosity without “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” Generosity in the local church is not marked by equal giving, but by equal sacrifice.
The word used for sacrifice is the word used to describe “the victim.” Something had to die in order for the sacrifice to be complete. Ultimately, the focus of the one making the sacrifice was not on the victim but on the victory gained from the sacrifice. Whatever made things right with God or put a smile on His face, or was pleasing to Him was worth the loss. When the victim was consumed the victory was resumed. Sacrifice costs dearly, but there is abundant profit in in it for those who are more concerned with the victory than the victim.
WARNING: A secularized consumer culture has no use for The Word of God until it comes to a government claiming the right to take more from people by calling it “the right thing to do. A demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument, will always pit citizens against one another to do their “Fair Share.” Unhinged taxation enforced by the threat of a gun is not an expression of charitable giving. It is indentured servitude that begins with fewer choices and less freedom. It ends in slavery to The State, not in service to God. But I digress.
When people unleash the spirit of entitlement into the local church, it is never a pretty picture. The need for greed, and meeting the need are not the same thing.
Pursuing maximum benefit for minimum expenditure, consumers hold on tightly to what they have until they are convinced those who are better off they are have paid their “Fair Share.” Take it to the band. The victims who think their life blood is being sacrificed on the altar are never convinced.
Greed begins in the nursery. Where there are two kids and one toy, the battle is on. The first word a child learns at church isn’t love. It is “SMINE!” Unlike fine wine, “SMINE” never improves with age. Even tea-sipping Baptists have a “Whine List.” They whine to God and to anyone within earshot that what they have received from Him is never enough. They are convinced that what God has given to someone else should have been given to them. When they are challenged to part with what God has placed in their own hands to meet the need of another or the mission of the church, they squeeze it like they stole it. They forget it never belonged to them in the first place.
In God’s Kingdom, the aroma of sacrifice is more pleasing to Him than meeting the need, providing the gift, or gaining the profit. King David understood this. David refused a gift that was offered to him, at no cost, as a location where he could make a significant sacrifice to God. He wisely said,
“I will not offer God that which cost me nothing.”
People under authority always understand the importance of sacrifice. They don’t play the role of the victim, being dragged kicking and screaming to the altar. They run to it, and yield to it with a spirit of joyous abandon, not a sense of catastrophic loss.
Anyone who has a firm belief in the power of the resurrection takes hope in the knowledge that what is dead can be revived. In similar fashion, what is given is not lost. It is invested. The profit that comes from sacrificial giving may not be a complete restoration or a replacement with an exact replica. It is better.
What is consumed on the altar of sacrifice is never resumed or exhumed. It becomes perfume. A person who lives and gives sacrificially will be marked by the aroma of the last thing they placed on the altar. They never lose the aroma of sacrifice, and the joy that comes with it. Anything that puts a smile on God’s face, puts one on theirs as well.
Anyone who has ever grilled out in their back yard knows that the aroma coming from the grill often covers the clothing, the body, and the hair of the chef. The aroma and the chef become one and the same thing. People don’t complain about the aroma. They kiss the cook.
Walking through a neighborhood, and smelling the smoke of someone cooking out in their backyard is not a repugnant odor. It is pleasant aroma. It doesn’t bring up bad memories of burnt sacrifices. It generates a desire to do it again, as soon as possible.
People that enter into a giving campaign in the local church should have a similar response to every call to sacrifice. If a challenge to give brings a rolling of the eyes, and a squeezing of the turnips, then the spirit of sacrifice has been lost.
Giving, with a penny-pinching grip is not biblical generosity. Writing a check without the aroma of sacrifice, may add to the total amount received for an offering. It never adds to the profit of the one who is parting with “their” money.
Paul reminded those that gave to him that he was grateful for their gift, but even more excited about the profit that it added to their account. Their sacrificial giving was a blessing to him, but in the final analysis, it was pleasing to God. They gave as victors, not victims.
Note to self: When God smiles at your sacrifice, never doubt His intention to resurrect what you sacrificed on His altar. He will never be in your debt.
“When I shovel out, God shovels in, and His shovel is bigger than mine.”
- Anonymous Hill Country Preacher, Marble Falls, Texas 1975