It Is More Blessed to Give Than to ReceiveRev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
I am not sure when I first heard these words. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" sounds like something out of a stewardship program from church so I suppose that is where I heard it first. Ironically, these are the closing words of Paul’s farewell message to the Elders of Ephesus.
Paul was on the return leg of his third missionary journey. He had left the island of Sanlos and was anxious to get to Jerusalem. He decided to skip Ephesus, where he had spent nearly two years teaching and preaching. Rather, he sent ahead for the elders of Ephesus to meet him in the port city of Miletus, about 37 miles away.
It was an emotional meeting. The account reads, "When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship." (Acts 20:36-38)
Paul was not leaving the work. Rather, he knew his work ahead would prevent him from returning to these people who sat at his feet and learned the most important truths of all -- words from Scripture. As with most parting messages, Paul sought to leave with them little gems of important thoughts that would characterize how they would continue this ministry in his absence. The words of Acts 20:35 were his last recorded words of direction before he bid them farewell: "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" (Acts 20:35)
There is an irony hearing these words from Paul. For him, giving was more than just pulling out a weekly offering. Giving meant extensive traveling at a time when traveling was a hardship. Giving meant working his way through his journeys as a tent maker. Giving meant proclaiming a message to people who often didn’t want to hear it. Giving meant having to take whippings, stoning and other abuse because of the message he gave. I suspect most of us would have reached the point where the giving would have to stop. There is only so much abuse a person can take.
Yet, not Paul. The suffering and grief were not a deterrent to him but a testimony from him as to the importance of his work. A whipping or stoning was not a sign that he should stop what he was doing. Rather, his willingness to take it testified that helping the weak was just that important.
Now, apply that to your work in Christian Life Resources. Whether you are serving in a pregnancy counseling center, in a branch or on a board, there have been contemporary versions of stonings and whippings. A client lashes out in anger because she did not like the message you gave her. You are criticized for doing what you thought was best. You sacrificed but were forgotten in thc acknowledgments. It may not be the leather strap or the sharp stone that cuts your skin, but the wounds run just as deep.
Most of us knew when we got into this work that it wasn’t going to be easy. Yet, most of us felt it probably wasn’t going to be as frustrating or discouraging. But then, if it were easy everyone would do it. But everyone does not do it. When it came to thc service call of helping the voiceless unborn or the defenseless disabled you were one of the few who said, "Here am I, send me."
A number of you have been working with Christian Life Resources for many years now. To capsulize your years of service some may say it has been "gratifying." Others may say it has been "fun." But for some the words may simply be, "burned out." The whippings and stonings have gone on for so long. Yet, isn’t it really more blessed to give than to receive?
Peter observed, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you will participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." (1 Peter 4:12-16)
I don’t think Paul looked for personal gratification in his work. He wasn’t looking for credit and adoration. He didn’t seem to be bothered that his efforts were even appreciated. He simply found contentment in giving of himself so that others might know Christ’s love.
There isn’t a magic pill that will somehow transform your Christian Life Resources work into euphoric pleasure. There isn’t a bandage that can heal the wound of an unjust whipping or stoning. There is simply a personal resolve that giving, even in the face of adversity, is greater than receiving. The value is measured not in the personal gain but in the product which is given – Christian love.
Always keep in mind the assurance of Scripture which says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) The testimony of Scripture is clear – it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
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