“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Explanation and Commentary of Philippians 4:11
Paul has recently received a gift of support from the Philippian church delivered by one of their own, Epaphroditus. Paul is thanking them, not because he was in need, but because he is happy that their faith has manifested in generosity. He explains here that he doesn’t spend much time worrying about how God is going to provide for him, or to what extent. If he is to abound, he will abound joyfully. If not, then he will be perfectly content, because God gives him the strength to endure any situation that Paul finds himself put in by God.
For believers, we should expect that not only will God provide for us our daily bread, but that he would also move us to provide for others, especially for those who labor in ministry and preaching. All are called to share the gospel and make disciples (Mt 28:18-20), but some will labor in such a way as to be privileged to work on behalf of the church, receiving their support from the people’s worship to God in tithes and offerings. It is not that they have a job at the church, but rather, by God’s call and grace, they are allowed to have no job so that they can do the work that all Christians are called to, but on a full-time basis. The Bible says, “17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages’” (1 Tim 5:17-18). Paul occasionally accepted support from the churches he served, but his usual preference was to work at his trade of tent making (2 Cor 11:7-15) in order to provide for his own needs.
Paul loved that the Philippians were being generous, and he rightly believed that they would be rewarded for it. It is the same for us today. Ask God to help you to give generously for the sake of his mission, knowing that you are storing up “treasure in heaven” (Mt 6:20).
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Philippians 4:11
#1 “I am not saying this because…”
He had just said it was good of them to send him a gift.
#2 “…I am in need,”
Whether Paul was not truly in need, or whether he was content with being in need, is very similar. His trust in God to provide what he needed was unwavering. To Paul, if God did not provide it, Paul did not need it so long as God gave him strength.
#3 “for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances.”
True contentment is tested when the circumstances are less than desirable. If someone is content when everything is going fine, that is better than the person who is never content, no matter how good they have it. But to be content in all circumstances is sublime freedom. This comes from God.
Bible Study on Philippians 4:11
Expert Overview of Philippians
Biblical Translations of Philippians 4:11
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.