“It Is More Blessed to Give Than to Receive” (Acts 20:35)

It is one thing to say we should give, but it is another to live a life reflective of a giving heart. In Acts 20:33-35, the Apostle Paul is delivering a final speech to the elders of the Ephesian church. One of his final thoughts was a reminder of his work ethic and attitude toward money during his time in Ephesus. He says,

“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”. (NKJV)

The final quotation in Paul’s farewell speech at Miletus comes from Jesus Christ: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This saying provides beautiful reminders for those, like Paul, who are kingdom leaders. It challenges our motives and mindset in our preaching and teaching work. However, it also is an exhortation to those, like the Ephesian elders, who are to be living examples of the gospel (cp. 1 Peter 5:3). How will we live if, indeed, we believe giving brings greater happiness than receiving?

First of all, we will not convey a covetous spirit. Paul “coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel” (20:33). Some religious leaders will do anything for money. Jude warns not to “run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit” (Jude 11). Jesus attacked first-century religious leaders who would “devour widows’ houses” if it meant personal gain (Mark 12:40). In contrast, money was not Paul’s motive. He “suffered the loss of all things” in following Christ (Philippians 3:8). Yet, he did so willingly for heavenly gain (3:11). When our motives for preaching become financial (what we can gain) rather than spiritual (what preaching has to offer) then we are covetous. This is not to say Paul, or any preacher, is not worthy of financial support (1 Corinthians 9:11-15). However, we ought to avoid letting this selfish factor become the sole motive for our work or it corrupts the work. The preacher’s goal is to win souls, not silver.

Secondly, we will be willing to work with our hands when necessary. Physical labor is honorable, not shameful. If the Apostle Paul was willing to make tents to supplement his income, what would be wrong with a preacher performing similar physical labor (see Acts 18:1-3)? Paul could point to “these hands” as proof he was not covetous and willing to work (20:34; see also 1 Corinthians 4:12). The one who works more can give more. There is honor in being bi-vocational when it enables one to honorably share.

Finally, the one who believes in Jesus’ Beatitude on giving will use their resources to “support the weak.” Paul, as an apostle, set an example of using his funds to help the needy. In doing so, he set the bar for the elders of Ephesus. We are all, by our lifestyle, setting an example for others to follow. Do your life’s choices convey, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”?