Thursday, June 20, 2019

Contentment is Sufficiency in Christ

It is my belief that the greatest statement of Christian maturity is Paul’s statement of contentment in any circumstance.  Reread it and see how much wisdom and life experience is behind this statement. 
Was he in need?  Probably.  To Paul, it made no difference whether he was free or bound to a soldier, whether the day was hot and humid or bleak and frigid, whether the Philippians sent a gift or failed to make contact.
Content may be a mistranslation of the original language, even though many versions use it. The Greek word autarkes, which is translated as content, really doesn't refer to one's emotional state of satisfaction. Rather, the word autarkes means "self-sufficient" or "self-reliant." 
As the Christians at Philippi first heard this letter read in their assembly, they may well have been shocked by Paul's claim to be “self-sufficient”. They were all-too-familiar with the whole concept of "self-sufficiency" because it was prized by the popular philosophers of their day, the gurus who preached in the marketplace. 
Many of these counselors were advocates of Stoicism, the most popular philosophical system in the Greco-Roman world during the first century A.D. At the core of Stoic ethics was the view that human happiness can be attained through self-sufficiency; through relying only upon oneself in all things.   SELF-HELP GURUS!!
If we can stop depending on the opinions and help of others, the Stoics argued, then we can be truly happy, and nothing will take away our contentment. So, at first blush, Paul appears to adopt the Stoic way of life when he says "I have learned to be self-sufficient with whatever I have."How very Stoic of Paul! Or so it seems.   BUT LET’S READ ON…
Philippians 4:13 explains everything. This is the mystery into which Paul has been initiated. But, unlike inductees of pagan mysteries, Paul freely and eagerly gives away the secret: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  Though the text doesn't tell us who “Him” is, the overall context in Philippians leaves no room for doubt. Paul is speaking here of Jesus Christ. 
Without verse 13, verse 11 sounds very Stoic. Paul seems to say that he has learned to rely upon himself in every situation. But with verse 13 in mind, verse 11 reads in an utterly non-Stoic way. In fact, Paul is not self-reliant at all, but wholly reliant upon Christ.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:19

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