Philippians 4:11-13 (Nestle 1904 Greek New Testament)
…for I have learned to be content in that which I am. (v.11)
I know also how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In everything, and in all things, I have learned the secret also to be full and to hunger, also to abound and to be deficient. (v.12)
For all things, I have strength in the One strengthening me. (v.13)
…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
αὐτάρκης (autarkēs) (“sufficiency within”) occurs only in Phil 4:11 where it refers to positive self-sufficiency (inward adequacy) – (autárkēs) comes from autos (“self”) and arkein (“sufficient”) meaning “self”-sufficiency, which is entirely God-produced.
πάντα (panta): of a certain definite totality or sum of things, in an absolute sense all the things that exist.
How to be brought low
tapeinóō (“show humility, true lowliness”) happens by being fully dependent on the Lord – dismissing reliance upon self (self-government) and emptying carnal ego.
I have strength
ἰσχύω (ischyō) properly, embodied strength that “gets into action”. Refers to the Lord strengthening them with combative force to achieve all He gives faith for. That brings what the Lord defines as a victory.
How to abound
περισσεύω perisseuó: overflow, exceed the ordinary
ἐνδυναμοῦντί (endynamounti): en “in,” which intensifies. dynamóō, “sharing power-ability”) – properly, to impart ability (make able); empowered.
From these 3 bible verses, plus the greek definitions added above, I am able to grasp the idea of what the apostle Paul was trying to tell us.
First of all, let’s keep in mind that the Greek word used in this bible verse has only been used one time in the whole Bible, and that is on this bible verse. “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
content: (autárkēs) comes from autos (“self”) and arkein (“sufficient”) “sufficient for oneself, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances”
The apostle Paul was able to be self-sufficient, but that self-sufficiency was entirely God-produced. He as a human was self-sufficient, and God was the power that made it all possible.
So in order to understand why being self-sufficient and being content is the same thing in this Bible verse, let’s see the meaning of contentment.
Content: In a state of peaceful happiness. Willing to accept a particular thing; satisfied and willing to accept a situation, and not wanting anything more or better (McMillan dictionary)
Self-Sufficient: Able to maintain oneself or itself without outside aid: capable of providing for one’s own needs.
In our culture, everyone wants to be self-sufficient. Everyone wants to take charge of their own achievements, needs, goals, successes, career path, finances, relationships, everything. Being self-sufficient is celebrated in our culture. But human self-sufficiency, the one where WE are the source of providing for our own needs, it’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. It will not bring us contentment, in fact, it will be quite the opposite, as we always see the grass greener somewhere else. And nothing is good enough.
Accepting God’s contentment, living our lives under God’s self-sufficiency, the one that Paul was actually referring to, is the only way we will be able to be completely satisfied with our lives.
Let me pause, and take time for my brain to completely process what I just said. I can’t even believe that such a modern concept already existed in the Bible.
It’s like the same concept of self-sustainability: maintaining or being able to maintain oneself or itself by independent effort. (Merrian Webster dictionary) Samples of self-sustainable energy are solar power, nuclear power, coal power, etc. So what is our self-sustainable energy? What’s the only real source of power that gives humans the power of being self-sustainable, of being self-sufficient, of being content? You and I know that answer, is God. Our creator. The one that gave us life.