Article by: Sarah Koontz
Are you familiar with the saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive?”
If you know, off the top of your head, where that quote originated from, you are doing better than me!
I was surprised to discover that this familiar saying is quoted by the Apostle Paul as a teaching of Jesus in Acts 20:35b NIV:
“Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Although we don’t see this direct quote from Jesus anywhere else in Scripture, the injunction, “remembering,” implies that it was a common oral teaching of Christ passed down by His Apostles.
I was even more surprised to discover the intense emotional context surrounding this text.
Although most passages maintain some teaching value when plucked out of their context, students of the Word should always study Scripture in context.
I like to think of context as an intricate spider web glistening in the morning light.
Our eye is immediately drawn to the center of the web, but that beautiful focus point could not exist apart from the many supporting threads surrounding it.
Acts 20:17-36 records Paul’s farewell to the elders of the church of Ephesus before he traveled to Jerusalem on his third missionary journey.
Prior to quoting the words of Christ about giving and receiving, Paul makes several statements that reveal the condition of his heart and circumstance.
- I served the Lord with great humility and with tears in the midst of severe testing (vs 19).
- I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me (vs 23).
- I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock (vs 29).
- For three years, I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (vs 31).
- Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace (vs 32).
A Biblical Perspective on Giving and Receiving
When I read Paul’s words to the first-century believers, I can feel his passion, his pain, and his purpose.
Paul did everything in his power to serve God and his fellow man with humility, compassion, and selflessness.
He ran his race with endurance, yet his earthly reward was hardship, suffering, and death.
Paul’s life teaches us the true cost of dedicating your life to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing easy, simple, or comfortable about accepting Jesus’ call to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him (Mt 16:24).
And that is the context surrounding Paul’s reminder that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
It gets even more interesting when we study the words “blessed,” “give,” and “receive” in the original language of Scripture.
Blessed = makários (mak-ar’-ee-os) meaning, “fortunate, happy, to be envied; when God extends His benefits, provision, and/or favor to a believer.”
Give = didómi (did’-o-mee) meaning, “to grant, give to one asking, to supply or furnish necessary things; to extend, entrust, or commit.”
Receive = lambanó (lam-ban’-o) meaning, “to lay hold by aggressively (actively) accepting what is available (offered), emphasizing the assertiveness of the receiver.”
John Gill, a Baptist theologian from the 1700s, offers an intriguing exposition of this biblical contrast of giving and receiving:
“The giver is in a more comfortable situation, having an abundance, at least a sufficiency, and something to spare; whereas the receiver is often in want and distress, and so uncomfortable.”
Giving and Receiving for God’s Glory
I decided to write on the subject of giving and receiving today because it’s one that I am currently wrestling with.
You see, all of my life, I’ve been a giver. I enjoy being the one who has an abundance to share and little need to receive from others.
But now, by the grace of God, I find myself in the position of the receiver more often than I would prefer.
I feel good when I give.
I feel guilty when I receive.
Maybe you can relate?
God’s grace is required when we give; God’s grace is required when we receive. Neither is more noble or honorable than the other. They are just different! And they are both essential aspects of Christian service.
And the one thing we must always remember, whether we are giving or receiving, is that everything we have is from God, for God, and unto God.
So, let us embrace the work of giving and receiving for God’s glory!
As 2023 comes to a close, we are asking every member of our community to prayerfully consider what God would have you give in support of the mission and vision of Living by Design Ministries.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit ministry, we are supported by the freewill offerings of God’s people.
Without our donors, it would not be possible for us to continue to provide free Bible study resources to our community.
A few friends of the ministry recently offered us a $10,000 matching gift.
This means that all donations to Living by Design Ministries will be doubled through December 5 (up to $1,000 per donor until the matching funds are exhausted).
I believe this matching fund drive is a beautiful opportunity for our community to grow together in our understanding of what it means to give and to receive for God’s glory.
3 Reasons to Give to Living by Design
I used to get anxious whenever fundraising season rolled around because I detest talking about money (in fact, I try not to even think about money most of the time).
But God has called me to serve His Kingdom’s purposes by cultivating this free Bible study ministry.
That means I must find people who are willing to stand in the gap and cover the cost for our Bible study participants.
There are so many souls in our midst that could not afford to pay for these studies if there was any cost associated with them whatsoever.
They need me to unapologetically invite you to invest in this ministry. They need me to ask you to pay the price they cannot. They need me to be bold so that they can continue participating in our life-giving Bible studies.
Before I ask you to give in support of our free Bible study ministry, I need to tell you why I am so invested in it.
First of all, I believe that God’s Word is the only thing in the world powerful enough to transform our pain into purpose (Jn 8:31-32).
The Bible reveals a God who redeems, a Savior who sanctifies, and a Holy Spirit who fills the cracks and crevices of our hearts with hope.
At Living by Design Ministries, we create free resources that help Christians experience the transformative power of God’s living and active Word in their everyday lives.
Second, God’s people need to know what God’s Word really says (Eph 4:14-15).
Let’s be honest with one another, there are a lot of people “teaching” a lot of things that sound great, but are not biblical!
At Living by Design Ministries, we are committed to diligent study and correct teaching of the Word of Truth.
Third, Bible literacy is declining at an alarming rate in our culture (Jn 17:17). Sadly, nine out of ten practicing Christians say they wish they read their Bibles more [source].
By providing free online resources to help Christians better engage with the biblical text, we are tackling the problem of Bible literacy head-on.
At Living by Design Ministries, we are committed to growing in knowledge of the Word and proclaiming the truth of the Bible to all who will listen.
Will you prayerfully consider giving a $20+ donation to Living by Design Ministries right now?
Thanks to our matching donors, every financial gift we receive during our Fall Fundraiser will be doubled through December 5.
Your gift will help us continue to give “without cost from the spring of Living Waters (Rv 21:6)” in 2024 and beyond.
If you are unable to give a financial gift at this time, here are five no-spend ways to show your support for Living by Design Ministries.