Friends Both Give and Receive
Written by Kayla Ferris (First 5 Ministries)
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
I once heard someone say that when we don’t allow people to help us, we are robbing them of the blessing of serving. I think the reason this stuck with me was because I was at that time in the throes of motherhood. I was tired and covered in spit-up, but I was determined to “be strong” and do it all myself. I turned down offers of help from friends because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone on my behalf. However, I have come to learn that real friendship requires being both a generous giver and a gracious receiver.
Today in Philippians, we learn of Paul’s friend Epaphroditus. What an example of generous giving! Epaphroditus was sent by the church in Philippi to deliver a gift to Paul in prison. According to some scholars, Epaphroditus himself was part of the gift, with the intention that he might stay behind and assist Paul where needed. Epaphroditus was making great sacrifices, but none greater than the fact that this journey almost cost him his life.
Epaphroditus’ giving causes me to examine my own level of generosity toward my friends. Epaphroditus did not just bring a momentary gift. He brought himself. It is highly improbable that any of us will be asked to risk our physical lives for our friends like Epaphroditus, but I do wonder: How much of my life am I willing to share? Sometimes it is less difficult to share our money and resources than it is to share our time, our hearts or our struggles. I am reminded today that if I am to be a truly generous giver in friendship, it means giving of myself. It means being fully present when we are together.
While being a generous giver is important, neatly tucked into this passage we also can see Paul as an example of what it looks like to be a gracious receiver. We learn in Philippians 4:17 that Paul didn’t seek the gift. He was perfectly content as he was. There was no sense of entitlement, as if the Philippians “owed” him anything. But when they did give, Paul was grateful and knew that the giving had also blessed his friends. It is interesting to point out that the gift did not go as planned. It had cost his friends, especially Epaphroditus, dearly. It had even given Paul some degree of anxiety. And yet… Paul heaped honor on Epaphroditus, calling him”brother,” “fellow worker,” “soldier” and “minister.” He instructed others to receive him with joy as well.
In my friendships, am I a gracious receiver as well? Not that we should expect our friends to do things for us, but if they do, perhaps we should receive it with gratitude. And maybe we should express that gratitude out loud. Sometimes friendship is inconvenient or stretches us out of our comfort zones. Things don’t always go as planned when others jump in to help. Yet in these moments, we have a choice: Will we go it alone, and rob others of the blessing of giving? Or will we be gracious receivers, welcoming our friends’ efforts with joy and honor? In my relationships, I want to be more like Epaphroditus and Paul, both generously giving and graciously receiving, both for the glory of God.