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I know how to be made lowly, and I know also how to be abounding; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret of both being filled and going hungry, both to abound and to be lacking. (Philippians 4:12)
He wanted the Philippian believers to understand that he was appreciative of their generosity. However, he would not ask for anything. Why? Because he had been through God’s school of discipline in his life, he held an advanced degree by taking post-graduate degrees in difficulties. Some of the courses were on having little, being hungry, and having needs. He also had courses in abundance and was well fed. Together these courses gave Paul his degree in contentment.
To be made lowly (ταπεινόω tapeinoō) literally means to be humbled and is often used to depict reducing the size of mountains and hills. It carries the view of someone being brought down to a low position. He contrasts this with the word perisseuein, which means to have an abundance, to overflow, to abound in something. He states that “in everything” en panti, which is in every matter or condition, he was content. To emphasize this point, he repeats the phrase again, which we translate into the words “in all things.”
Paul says he has “learned the secret of” from the Greek word memuemai, which means to be initiated into the sacred mysteries or to be discipled in a certain lesson. The lesson he says is to be content when he is chortazo (full or satisfied with food) or to peinao (to be hungry). He had learned the secret of contentment when he was perisseuein (in abundance) or when he was hustereo (with needs and wants).
Paul had learned to be content in all circumstances of his life. The lessons had been hard, they had been in-depth, and most of us would not want to go through the school that God had taken Paul through. He had an advanced degree in contentment because he had passed through the curriculum of difficulties that taught him well. Now, Paul is about to share with the Philippian believers who the instructor was that both put forth the lessons and gave Paul the ability to see them through.
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And I know also how to be abounding. Then, there were times when Paul had (περισσεύω perisseuō) an abundance. He was in a more fortunate or prosperous condition; conceived of as being amply supplied for all his wants, and had experienced what it was like to have enough. Paul learned that one had to maintain his integrity when living in adversity and prosperity. Living in adversity will build character and humility, while prosperity will demand that one have character and humility already. This is not to say a wealthy person cannot build character and humility as he can; it is just more difficult.
In everywhere and in all things. Whether Paul was staying at a wealthy Christian home, imprisoned, or out in the market selling tents he had made, he learned these things.
I have learned. The word here used—μυέω mueō; from μύω muō—means that Paul learned special information, the secret of something through personal experience or as the result of what was only known by God and to those that he had revealed it. Paul learned the secret of being taught by trials and by prosperity, and he had many life experiences of adversity and what it could teach him.
The secret of both being filled. In other words, Paul had learned to have an abundant resource that took care of his wants, and yet to adhere to the laws of moderation, abstinence, restraint, and self-discipline, and to appreciate thankfulness for the blessings and acts of kindness that he had enjoyed.
And going hungry. In other words, to be in circumstances of need and yet not grumble or whine. He had learned the secret of how to bear all of this without being discontent. This was not an easy lesson to learn then, as it is not now either. Paul had to not be resentful at the prosperity of others and not feel or express discontent; fret when his moments of prosperity were removed by life in this fallen world. We must keep in mind that he seldom had the chance to experience a stable condition during Paul’s travels and imprisonments because it was constantly changing. One moment he is enjoying prosperity, the next, adversity. One moment he is safely in the home of a wealthy person, the next, he is imprisoned. One moment he is enjoying the safety of a church, the next, he is being stones outside some city. One moment he is poor and hungry; the next, he has all the necessities he could desire. Paul never knew a life of calm contentment because his life rapidly changed like the rapids on a river. Paul had to learn the secret of both to abound and to be lacking, while always exhibiting integrity, godly devotion, and faithfulness.
 It is the same word in two different forms in Greek. Giving us the images of everywhere and everything, he has not left any area out in this learning experience.