I have been meditating on Philippians 4:11 recently. My reading has brought me to this book of the Bible and it is timely for it to be so. A little noteworthy thing is that Paul mentions "rejoicing" and "joy" no less than 16 times in this short epistle, and "attitude" or "this mind" no less than 10 times. It is clear that these are important themes here!
The verse I have in mind to blog about today is specifically Philippians 4:11 and the reason I am writing about it is because I believe it is sometimes used wrongly and foolishly in biblical counseling.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11 (NASB)
Well meaning individuals have used this verse to encourage remaining in just about every circumstance of life, from jobs to marriage. There are times such counsel is dangerous.
I hear from you often, from all around the world and I am asked questions about issues like; what do I do if my husband is unkind, or hits me, or makes me work when I want to stay home and raise our children. What do I do when my husband wants me to watch pornographic movies or swap partners? What do I do when I am so miserable in my life and marriage that I want to leave and start over someplace else?
These questions and many others have been plastered with Philippians 4:11 and the verses following. We must be certain that our counsel is true to the intent of the Scripture and the circumstance, we must rightly divide the Word of God.
There are covenantal obligations and non-covenantal obligations, there are preferences and there are commands. We have to be sure that we are looking at the situation from the correct viewpoint and taking into account the whole of the Scriptures. Things are rarely black and white, and clear cut as they may appear.
Even in a covenantal obligation such as marriage their can be exceptions to "be content in every circumstance." The woman who is beaten by her husband has no obligation to "be content." In fact, to counsel her to live this way is completely contrary to the Scriptures! A beaten or abused woman is not only a wife, she is a sister in Christ to her husband and a part of the Bride of Christ and the church has an obligation to assist her.
Romans 13 is not a suggestion and numerous Scriptures command us as the church to hold the husband/brother accountable for his sin against her in a serious and legal way! We are to submit to the authorities placed over us to protect us. In the case of spousal abuse this means we counsel the woman and literally help the woman to remove herself from the situation, call the police and press charges against the husband. The laws are in place to help women in cases such as these. The goal is to restore the sinning husband/brother to fellowship, so Matthew 18 must also be a part of the plan and aggressive counseling measures must be implemented with strict accountability!
Any time a husband asks his wife to sin she is not obligated to obey him. She must submit to God first and not disobey God to obey her husband.
Issues like working or staying home are not as clear cut as we might like to think. Yes, while it is true that Titus 2 tells women to be keepers at home that is not always possible. Too many times the decision to work is made by economics. Couples that have not lived by sound financial rules or made poor decisions with debt have no choice but to require 2 incomes. Returning to the home should be the goal for the future. Making good decisions with money, paying down debt and living below your means will help to return a working woman to the home.
Discontentment does not have to be a bad thing if it is used to spur you on to make necessary changes in your life.