Caring for the needs of others has always been a part of the Christian lifestyle. We read from the book of Acts –
Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common… 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
There was such a tenderness of heart in the early church that many saints went above and beyond what might be expected. Those who had been blessed with a great deal extra – openly shared with those in need. Though their actions are to be commended, John tells us that tenderheartedness towards those in need is a sign of genuine salvation.
1 John 3:6 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
The reason we should be so willing to care for others is because God has been so willing to care for us. John reminds us that Jesus laid down His life for us. We read from the book of Corinthians –
2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
We should note that Paul wrote those words in the context of caring for the needs of others.
John encourages us to not just say that we love others, but to demonstrate our love by our actions. Christlike love should cause us to be willing to forgive when we are wronged. It should cause us to be longsuffering with those who are difficult. It should cause us to reach out to those who are hurting. It should cause us to lend a helping hand when we have the ability. And it should cause us to share of our God-given blessings.
The Philippian church had been faithful to care for Paul, not only while he was in prison, but on a regular basis. Philippians 4:15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Paul was not begging for money nor playing on their emotions in order to solicit a special gift. He was genuinely expressing his gratitude and praise, both to the Philippians and to God. So will be the case whenever Christians live out the love of Christ.