This is the season of giving! Or, is it getting? Sometimes I’m not sure.
I’m a huge fan of Christmas. I love the gifts, the decorations, and all of the festivities. However, I do believe that we – especially us Americans – need to exercise caution not to become too materialistic this time of year.
In Acts 20:35, Paul reminded the Ephesian elders about the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Interestingly, this is the only time that we read these words of our Lord. I’m thankful that Paul cited them so we could have them for all the ages. Let’s notice three points about this passage: the example, the expectation, and the experience of giving.
1. The Example of Paul
In Acts 20:34, Paul states that he had worked hard to provide for his own necessities so that he would not be a burden on the Lord’s church. As such, Paul provides a wonderful example for you and me. Let’s work to serve others instead of sitting by and waiting on others to serve us. Which leads us to the second observation.
2. The Expectation of the Church
Paul makes it clear that God expects all Christians to look for ways to serve each other – especially when it comes to spiritual needs. He says, “you must support the weak” (Acts 20:35). Galatians 6:1-2 is a parallel passage, which tells us to bear one another’s burdens, or trespasses. We are to help each other, walking with each other to remain faithful together. Camaraderie is an amazing gift you can give.
3. The Experience of Giving
Let’s focus in on Jesus’ words that Paul quotes. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul called on the elders to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus.” That word “remember” means to constantly call to mind.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give…” (Acts 20:35). That word “blessed” refers to a higher, deeper, and fuller experience than mere happiness. Gareth L. Reese, in his commentary on Acts, says this on page 757:
There is a deep sense of blessedness that is experienced by the man who gives! There is a more lasting satisfaction resulting from being one who gives, than there is in being one who simply gets.
The word “give” is given in the present tense form in the original language. It could be translated, “constantly giving.” Wayne Jackson says that the sense is this: “Happier is the one who consistently practices giving, than is he who constantly receives” (Acts: From Jerusalem to Rome, page 263).
Let’s wrap it up: Paul’s words from Christ are, of course, absolutely true. The one who gives is absolutely blessed. He or she finds a deep sense of satisfaction and joy in giving that just cannot be found in receiving. Sure, receiving brings gratitude and it ties us together as people, but giving reminds us that what we have is from God; it’s not ours to begin with! This helps us to avoid selfishness and greed. Giving helps us to become more godly as we consider our heavenly Father who gave His only begotten Son for us.