Jump Start # 3180
Philippians 4:12 “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”
Our verse today is a great one. Paul lets us in on a little secret. It’s something that he has learned. And, by telling us, he wants us to learn these things as well. “I have learned the secret,” our verse tells us. In the verse before, Paul says, ‘I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Learning to be content. Learning the secret of being filled and going hungry—those are a couple of things that most never learned. It’s not taught in schools. It’s not taught nor practiced at home. And, unless it’s talked about once in a while in the church building, even among God’s people, these will be a couple of lessons that are not learned.
Getting along with humble means—that’s just a polite way of saying, you’re poor. You don’t have much. Your clothes are few and not fancy. They are humble. Your house is nothing to talk about. It’s humble. And, this is the way it was for many of our parents and grandparents who lived through the depression. They didn’t have much and they didn’t have a choice. Few had jobs. Banks were closed. The times were tough. Bread lines stretched around city blocks. They didn’t have much but I’m not sure how many learned any lessons then.
The other side of this equation is “knowing how to live in prosperity.” Most think we got that. Let me show you. Put me in the big house, with a fleet of nice cars, fine food, fancy clothes, and I can show you that I’m happy as anyone. But our passage isn’t saying that. It’s not about enjoying fine things. It’s not the suite in the hotel. It’s not flying first class. Knowing how to live and learning the secret are tied together. Money is a funny thing. Too little and we complain. Too much and it ruins us. Poor or rich, Paul’s character was not changed. Poor or rich Paul was still centrally focused upon the Lord. Poor or rich Paul would do all that he could for the kingdom. Poor or rich didn’t change Paul. That’s the secret. It’s not about happiness but walking with the Lord.
Some of the most generous sharers are those who have very little. Some who ought to be in the best position to share, often do not. The more they have, the more they want to keep to themselves.
There ought to be some lessons that we learned, as Paul tells us:
First, the measure of a person is not by the brands that he wears or the street that he lives on, but what’s in his heart. That’s what matters. Some of the first Christians were servants who were poor. Our own Lord did not own real estate or have a place to call home. Our culture loves riches. Our culture defines success by square footage in a house, size of TV screen, number of cars owned and exhotic places traveled to. God measures success by faith.
Second, until we learn these lessons that Paul is talking about, there is a strong chance that our attitude will not be aligned correctly with the Lord. We will complain if we are poor and we will forget to be thankful if we are rich. One person is not better than another because of what he does or what he owns. A kid coming out of college who can throw a football half way down the field, or shoot the eyes out of a basket is destined to make millions in the pros. But another young man who chooses to spend his life preaching the saving message of Jesus is often paid just enough to get by. That sure doesn’t balance well in the big schemes of things.
Third, these secrets are really not secrets at all. All through Proverbs we are instructed about the proper balance about money. Jesus told so many parables about riches, especially in Luke. Rich man and Lazarus. Rich farmer who torn down his barns. Rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Zacchaeus, the very rich tax collector. These lessons are profound. They are easy to see. They are not hidden for only a select few. What makes these a secret is that so few know about them and so few want to know about them.
When it comes to money, we don’t like to hear sermons about those things. It makes us uneasy. We feel guilty. But maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe we’ve turned a blind eye to these important Biblical truths. Maybe we are trying to keep one foot in the kingdom while at the same time trying to keep another foot in the world. That won’t work long. All in with Jesus is what the Lord wants.
To be humble without complaining and to be in wealth without it ruining you—that’s the secret. It’s not happiness, it’s the Lord. That’s the secret. That’s the key. To whom much is given, much is required. That’s a grand principle to remember.
A secret learned…