The other day I realized how well Philippians 2 provides a solid biblical motivation for the concept of missional frugality.
I bet you’ve often heard people talk about ‘consumerism’ and ‘materialism’. I think those are big words that intend to remind us that our spending is self centered and out of control.
What is a Scriptural response that addresses our consumerism and materialism?
Discussing our life as Christians in Philippians 2, Paul writes:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
I’m assuming that you know this passage well. But let’s explore it as we discover how this passage impacts our finances.
The phrase “who, being in the very nature God” is theologically sticky. Scholars love to spend hours extrapolating on these few words. Simply put, Jesus had access to everything that belonged to the Father, due to his very nature. Glory, honor, power, and might were all his.
Yet, “he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” When I think of this phrase, I picture the opposite of a clinched hand. The Bible says Jesus did not hold on to his equality with God (and all the blessings and rights that accompany equality with God). Instead, his hand opened up, and he gave all of those things away.
To glorify the Father. For the salvation of the world. To model for us the life the Father desires.
Usually, we understand Philippians 2 in the context of salvation. Yet, in 2 Corinthians, Paul ties the humility of Christ to our finances.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
I’m sure you remember the context of 2 Corinthians, right? The passage is about giving.
Here Paul says our giving is a reflection, reliving, and re-enactment of the self emptying of Christ.
He did not consider his own interest. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He humbled himself. Though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor so that we might become rich.
If that is a fair summary of what Paul wrote, would it be fair to say:
We ought not to consider our own interest. Our status, wealth, and prosperity is not something to be grasped. We must humble ourselves. Though we are rich, for the sake of others, we ought to become poor so that others may become rich.
So Philippians 2 is not just a lesson about salvation. It’s a model of Christian giving.
Christian giving is firstly God-focused. It asks, what brings honor and glory to God? What does putting the kingdom first look like?
Christian giving is secondly others-focused. What benefits others? What provides for others? How can my wealth make others rich?
This, I must say, is contrary to what I’ve been taught about money. When it comes to money, I thought it was survival of the fittest; it was the award for the ones who work the hardest. It is our right to enjoy our wealth. If this is the way we think, then the following are logical conclusions:
- I get out of debt so I can have financial freedom.
- I save for retirement so I can have the security I need.
- I save money to buy things I’ve always wanted to own.
- I give so I can feel better about myself.
And so the call of Philippians chapter 2 and 2 Corinthians 8 is to become God-focused and others-focused with our finances. This inevitably will involve our giving up certain opportunities, rights, and resources for the sake of others.
May we model the example of Christ in our finances today.