Monday, October 06, 2014


“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)

I’ve heard Christians quote Philippians 4:13 to apply to everything, except the one thing that Paul intended it for: The ability to let go of possessions and be content with little.
Even more frustrating is to hear Christian teachers and pastors quote that verse to justify an emphasis on getting more possessions and petitioning Jesus for greater abundance.

The reason this is infuriating to me is that the entire passage becomes twisted to mean something that Paul never said. The clue is to read the entire passage in context, and if you do that you’ll read:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Phil. 4:11-12)

It’s only after saying all of that that Paul concludes: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” in verse 13.

Paul’s point is that God empowers him to be content no matter what his circumstances may be. He is not urging us to invoke the name of Christ to gain more status, or wealth, or to accomplish our own selfish goals, or anything other than resting in the promise of God’s goodness and daily provision.

Another verse that is similarly used out of context is: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)

This is perhaps even more infuriating a verse to quote in the context of getting more stuff, amassing greater wealth, or accomplishing our own selfish purposes. Why? Because this verse is spoken by Jesus as the Rich Young Ruler walks away after refusing to give up all that he has to follow Christ.

Jesus says this to point out that the “impossible” thing is for a rich person to give up their wealth and share it with the poor to become a Disciple. Therefore, in context, what is “possible” with God is simply this: The ability for a rich person to love Jesus more than their money.

In our modern, American version of Christianity, Jesus often exists to give us a better life of ease and comfort. Some have pointed out that in America we say, “Come to Christ and you’ll get a better job, a stronger marriage, have nicer kids and enjoy the blessings of an abundant life.” But in the rest of the world they say, “Come to Christ and you may lose your job, your marriage, your kids, and endure persecution, imprisonment and possibly death.”

Certainly we enjoy less difficulties in America, but rather than seeing our abundance as a sign of God’s favor – or a right that we deserve somehow – perhaps we should realize that our freedom and comfort allow us to provide a measure of relief for our brothers and sisters who are enduring persecution and poverty around the world.

Isn’t that what Paul is really talking about in his letter to the Philippians? He is suffering so that his brothers and sisters may be blessed and he wants them to learn that same lesson.

Isn’t that what Jesus wants us to do? Loving God and loving others are connected ideas. If we love God we will be generous with our abundance and share what we have with our brothers and sisters in need, wherever they may be.

If this sounds challenging to you, just remember: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”




the alternative1 said...

most people who claim to be Christian will have their bible in hand--but they do not realize that verses do not belong in the bible--neither do chapter divisions and a whole lot of other stuff--Christianity is not a biblical belief but jesus Christ himself.

Anonymous said...

Hello Alternative 1,
In response to your comment:
All the brothers and sisters I know don't carry a bible in hand.(I have been a follower of the way for 30 yrs)when you say most people,I assume more than 50%? Consider also that many religious organizations consider them selves christians.(mormans,catholics,Jehovah witness,etc..)
Please be careful, are you humble,meek and lowly? verses and chapter divisions are not the main things. Could you explain a whole lot of other stuff? keep in mind 2 timothy 3:16-17.
You are right when you say its all about Jesus Christ.The whole bible from front to back points to Christ.Read it all in context.I would love to continue this conversation if you want.