We are on to a new letter here, the last one before Paul’s surviving “magnum opus”, the Epitstle to the Romans. Writing to the church at Philippi from prison, we hear Paul tonight writing in thanks to one of the few churches he accepts financial support from.
It’s widely shared that Paul comes from a family of tent-makers, and that he was also part of the Jewish religious authorities, so the assumption is often made that he was probably wealthy at best, or well-off at worst. But we forget that for at least the last twenty years of his life, Paul worked full time traveling to plant and support churches.
Needless to say, that is not a highly profitable field.
So, Paul was surely dependent upon the generosity of others to sustain himself and his fellow workers (such as Titus and Barnabas and Timothy) and his ministry. He makes a point in some letters to acknowledge that he has never accepted compensation from them (specifically in 2 Corinthians, where he makes a point in his polemic to highlight this fact.)
Paul wants to highlight here that he certainly doesn’t expect or require the Philippians to support him, but that he greatly appreciates it. He also points out that they were one of the first and only to do so.
We get a good picture into the interconnected, generous nature of the early church. Early traveling apostles could not exist without support from the congregations they planted and nurtured. Additionally, as we saw in 2 Corinthians as well, it was crucial that the better-endowed churches supported the less fortunate churches to assure their continued survival, and thus the continued spread of the Gospel.
It’s still true today: all the established churches are a web, interconnected and interdependent, as are all of us. We cannot survive without the touch and support of others, whether we find agreement with them on most things or not. All people, and all churches, are interrelated and propped up on all sides by one another. It is the only way to be, and the only way to continue to be. As much as some of us may try to pull away, may try to assert their individuality, their independence and ability to exist on their own, in the end, we are all drawn together, inevitably and assuredly.
In community we find support and strength and love.
Next: Philippians 1-2:18