It is more BLESSED to GIVE than to RECEIVE! “So now, brethren…I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 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.’” (Acts 20:33-35)
As Apostle Paul concludes his emotional farewell address to the Ephesian elders, he reveals how he had conducted his ministry so far with both candor and sincerity. He could say in all honesty that he had never coveted anyone’s earthly goods (v. 33). It was not the hope of financial gain that motivated him in the work of the Lord. In fact, he had labored with his own hands as a tentmaker in order to provide for the necessities of life, both for himself and for those who were with him. He had labored beyond that in order to have money to help the weak—those physically sick or weak as far as moral scruples are concerned, or weak in spiritual matters (vv. 34–35; 18:1–3).
The words of Apostle Paul reveal a biblical work ethic that forsakes greed in favor of hard, honest labor and a trust in God to provide for basic needs. Then as God blesses our hard work with abundance, it should overflow into generosity toward others in need. Not only we must be generous to others in need, but we “must support the weak” (v. 35), because this was the very thing that Jesus Christ has taught us. We see this pattern recurring many times in the New Testament (see Matt. 6:24–34; Luke 16:9–13; Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:6–15; 1 Tim. 6:6–10, 17–19). In fact, the two most important personalities in the New Testament had secular jobs: Jesus Christ was a carpenter, and Apostle Paul was a tentmaker!
We should take a second look of appreciation at Christian ministers who engage in bi-vocational ministries today – having a secular job to make their ends meet and doing God’s work at the same time on a voluntary basis. Many pastors in urban settings work at second and third jobs, since their churches cannot support them financially. Paul’s words also make us think about our attitudes toward work, income, and material things. If Paul supported himself through an occupation other than his ministry, shouldn’t Christian workers today at least consider that as an option? Are we providing any relief to the needy people around us, remembering that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”?
Apostle Paul’s way of life and integrity is a model for our own ministerial service today. For Paul, money was not his motivation (v. 33), and he supplemented his ministry by making tents (see 18:3), thereby putting less of a financial burden on the churches where he ministered (v. 34). The elders should remember this, and seek in all things the good of others, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Interestingly enough, these words of our Lord are not found in any of the Gospels, but through Paul’s knowledge of it has been recorded here. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” refers to giving our time, our talents and our treasures (money) to support the weak, who are less fortunate than us.
The reason why “it is more blessed to give than to receive” is because giving provides us dignity and meaning. Our giving blesses us more than the receiver. The act of giving reminds us that we too live by the grace of God. Giving offers us a way to express our confidence that God will take care of our needs just like He takes care of the birds in the air (Matt. 6:26). Today, let us remember the words of the Lord Jesus that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’, and strive to become God's channel of blessing everyday of our lives.