I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
Here we have an expression of warm and fragrant thanks for the gifts these people had sent to him by the hand of Epaphroditus, yet he is quick to point out that he is far more interested in what their giving does for them than what it does for him. You remember the Lord Jesus said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. This is what the apostle is saying, not that I seek the gift; but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit. These are really financial terms. The word fruit here is a common word in the business world of that day for interest. What Paul is saying is I don’t desire the capital. I only want the interest, and it is continually increasing to your account. That is, as you give to me there is a blessing you receive which is continually building up for your own enjoyment. That’s what he is after; not that he needs the gift. He wants them to be blessed in the giving, and that is why he so gladly receives these gifts from them.
Then he writes what is nothing more nor less than a receipt, in verse 18: I have received full payment and have more than enough. Now don’t be misled. This is not necessary in order for the Internal Revenue Department so that it might be deducted from the income tax. This is the reason we give receipts today. But this receipt was given in order that they may know the gift has gone farther than Rome. It has reached to heaven as well, where it is presented as a fragrant incense delighting the heart of God. God sees this gift given so freely to the apostle out of their poverty. In another epistle he speaks of the deep poverty out of which they gave. It becomes a delightful fragrance to God’s heart, pleased with the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Each offering in the church, and each gift of any Christian to any specific need, ought to be something that is given in such a willing, gracious, generous expression of the love and thanksgiving of the heart that God is just simply delighted as he knows it is the spirit of love within that prompts this kind of giving.
Remember we are told the Lord Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. There is a sense in which he always does that. He watches as we drop our check into the offering plate or coin into the box or mail it off. And he knows the intent of our hearts in this, and that is why the apostle so strongly says, God loves a cheerful giver, a hilarious giver, one who gladly pours it out. This delights His heart, because this is the way He gives to us in His Son.
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How often, Lord, I have given with the wrong motives. Thank you for the opportunity to give out of a cheerful heart that has already received so much more.
In the ebb and flow of giving and receiving, is self-concern our primary interest? How does it affect our contentment? Is your bottom line gratitude for all of God’s good and perfect gifts?