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.’
The authorship of this phrase is often questioned for while Paul clearly credits it to Christ Jesus, this cannot be found in any of the four gospels. No doubt you may have heard this phrase lot in community, and most people tend to hear about it without learning that it came from the Bible. It is more blessed to give than to receive – a great and noble saying, and probably commonly uttered by secular charities or non-Christians in an act of altruism. Yet how often do we consider this phrase in its original context? How often do we remember this saying in its entire verse? This saying was notably Paul’s last words in his farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus. After saying that, Paul knelt and prayed for them. In today’s study we will examine this saying in its context, looking specifically at the difference between the secular world’s adoption of it and the Biblical connotation of it.
In everything I did, I showed you that – Paul was never afraid to use himself and his actions as a positive example in his teaching. He put it very blatantly to the church of Corinth – therefore I urge you to imitate me [1 Cor 4:16|Article]. Was he being proud? As proud as this phrase may sound, Paul gives us an excellent case study on Leadership. That’s what he was, a leader of the Church, an apostle to the Gentiles, a role model to the Christians. He led a holy and blameless life, so that at any time he may point to himself as an example and encourage others to follow his lead. Most importantly, when he asks others to follow him, when he uses his actions as an example and demonstration, we must bear in mind that he’s not doing anything new. He’s not starting his own cult or fan club. He, too, had a role model. He, too, had a leader. He, too, was merely following the example of Christ Jesus.
By this kind of hard work we must help the weak – we labour to help the weak. There is no shame in working very hard for others – especially the weak. In today’s very materialistic and practical world, you may be labelled as foolish to work so hard but not for yourself. Why bother? Why invest so much time and effort on somebody else? It’s not your problem. When we talk about weak people, I assume that there are two kinds – those physically weak and those spiritually weak. There are some who may be weak in body – whether they are ill, or they do not have enough strength to meet the demands of their circumstances. They may be unable to work to help themselves, or even if they work very hard, they are still tied down by needs at home or elsewhere and are unable to meet all the demands of their circumstances. They need to be assisted, and in assisting them, we must labour. We must work hard.
And there are those who are weak in faith. We ought to help them too, but let us help wisely, and let us deal with them delicately. Pray for them, encourage them, be a source of support for them, and through your own life be a testimony to them and show them what this faith is about. This, too, is hard work – perhaps much harder than physical work.
remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive – This phrase, without doubt, originated from the Bible. The only place you can find it is in Acts 20:35, where Paul addresses the Ephesus Elders. Paul clearly credits it as what Christ himself has said – yet we can only speculate about where he heard the saying from. We know from the Bible that Paul was never a follower of Christ during his 3 and half years of ministry – he was a persecutor of Christ. His entire enlightenment at Damascus was also recorded in the Bible – it is thus unlikely that Paul was physically present first hand to hear Jesus say this. He had either received this from a vision, or more likely had heard some of the other disciples or followers of Christ testifying about it. Nowhere in the four gospels was Jesus ever quoted as having said this – however, there were times when he said things in a similar vein – Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give [Mt 10:8]. In other instances in the Bible, too, this idea was commonly repeated – We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves [Rom 15:1]. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done [Proverbs 19:17]. Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble [Psa 41:4].
Many times it is really foolish to be giving – imagine you only have a hundred dollars left, and you give some money to that poor old lady who hasn’t eaten in days. Well, being overly practical modern people we’d probably make sure of her story and background and instead of giving her money it would make more sense for us to be giving her good, but even so, it would have been foolish for you to have to starve the next two days just so that someone totally unrelated to you gets a meal. Foolish, in the eyes of men. Blessed, in the kingdom of God. Surely that was an exaggerated example, but in our daily lives there would have been an example or two when we unnecessarily waste our time and money and effort just so that we can lend somebody a helping hand. Are we obliged to do it – more often than not, no. But when we bless others, we are actually the ones who get more out of it. We may give, but we gain more, though our assets will be in heaven instead.
Paul quoted Jesus surely not to use blessings as a bait for us to give. It is simply to remind the people that their idea of receiving as the only way to be blessed may be too myopic. I imagine in the older days, this would have been a very alien concept to grasp. Let us not give up any opportunity to bless by giving. Especially if we are in the position to bless – that’s an immense blessing that we should not take for granted of.