The Meaning of Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs”

ZA Blog on February 5th, 2019. Tagged under ,.

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Like Philippians 4:13, Philippians 4:19 is a popular verse that’s often misused. After thanking the Philippians for generously supporting him, the Apostle Paul writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Some have used this passage to suggest that God wants us to be healthy and wealthy, or even more extreme, that he will make us healthy and wealthy if we give our money to a particular cause or person. This is known as the “Prosperity Gospel,” and it’s one of the most dangerous heresies today.

Paul is absolutely not promising that God makes us wealthy or healthy—not in the way that we typically understand those terms. Faithfully giving to the church will not make us financially wealthy or physically healthy.

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The problem with the Prosperity Gospel

The Prosperity Gospel is so dangerous because it twists our vision of God. It turns God into some kind of grand vending machine. It acts as though we just stick in a few coins and out pops some sort of good. We get a nice car, our debt goes away, or we’ll be cured of our ailments.

But that’s not what Paul says.

Paul knows about healing. In fact, through Paul, the Lord heals people in the Book of Acts (see Acts 19:11–12 and Acts 28:9). Paul also knows what it’s like to be well off and to have your needs met financially:

“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” (Philippians 4:12).

So it’s important to note that Paul also doesn’t say that God won’t heal us or meet our financial needs. He’s experienced that financial blessing with the very gift that the Philippians has sent.

The difference is, he’s not saying these things are connected in some kind of “if we do ____, God will give us ____” way.

To explore what this passage means, let’s take a look at the Philippians’ motives for giving Paul money.

Why did the Philippians financially support Paul?

Paul is thanking the Philippians for their sacrificial giving. They’re a poor community, yet out of their poverty, they gave a financial gift to Paul.

Why would they give when they already had so little? Not because they believed these gifts would somehow grow into more money, but because they were spiritually invested in the gospel and the ministry Paul was doing in Rome. They believed in his mission, and they could see and hear about the fruit of it. Paul talks about how the gospel is spreading through his ministry in the first chapter of Philippians.

Supporting Paul wasn’t a formula for the church or individual donors to make more money. If anything, it was a strategy to generate more believers. And that was an investment the Philippians were willing to make, despite having so little.

What does Paul promise in return?

Paul tells the Philippians that their gift was not in vain. God will meet their needs, according to his riches in Jesus Christ, not to make them wealthy, not to heal them of all their physical problems.

Earlier in his letter, Paul actually does tell the Philippians that Christ will transform their bodies—but that isn’t connected to their gift, and it isn’t a promise that will be fulfilled during their lives on earth:

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” —Philippians 3:20–21

That kind of blessing comes from our faith in Christ, when he returns—not from the money we put in the offering basket.

In Philippians 4:19, Paul is saying that God meets all of our needs according to the riches in Christ Jesus. He says God promises that as we participate in the ministry of the gospel, we’ll be blessed.

When Paul says “my God will meet all your needs,” he likely has a very different picture of what we need. Keep in mind, just a few verses earlier, Paul talks about how God gives us the strength to be content regardless of our circumstances. So he’s probably not going to turn around a couple sentences later and promise that God will provide the Philippians with a particular circumstance here (such as health or wealth).

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). But he doesn’t dole them out on a quid pro quo basis. And you don’t have to look at the world’s wealthiest people for long to see that they still need God’s blessing, too—because this isn’t a promise for a material blessing. It’s a promise for a spiritual provision which transcends our circumstances.

Learn more in Lynn H. Cohick’s Philippians online course.

  • Joseph Hernandez 3 months ago

    I concur that your gift is not in this Eartly existence or material things I suffur everyday from a debilitating severe issues with my back and severe pain from nerve pain in my legs only when I’m reading the scriptures have I asked my lord to lessen my pain and he has and when I finish it comes back but my freedom will come when I die.