Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Stripped of context and read through the lens of American idealism, Philippians 4:13 seems to promise that I can play like Le Bron, sing like Aretha, earn like Gates, accomplish anything I choose.
But in context…
Kiran was eleven when I met her in a slum in Kolkata, India. She lived in twenty-four square feet, among lepers and the poorest of the poor. She stepped over streams of urine to get to school each day. And with me and my friends she skipped through a brothel singing “Lord, I lift your name on high…”
She floated like a firefly through one of the darkest places in this world. How is this possible?
“Because I have God,” she explained.
Jesus left the limitless glory and wealth of eternity to live homeless in the slum of humanity. He had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). He was born into such grinding poverty that his mother could not afford the requisite sacrifice to consecrate Him to God as a baby. Instead of a costly lamb she offered more affordable birds (Luke 2:22-24, Leviticus 12:8).
Paul likely grew up among the Jewish ruling class, presumably wealthy. But for the sake of Christ he lost (some scholars believe) his wife and his standing and his health and his riches.
How do we live fully whether full or empty? With plenty and with hunger? We have God.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Strength to be grateful. To be faithful. To hope. To endure. To follow Jesus into Jerusalem, and to the cross.
God, when I am full keep me from becoming prideful and independent. When I am empty keep me from becoming hopeless and self-pitying. In all things, do all things You will through me. Amen.