We all know the adage: It’s more blessed to give than to receive. But where did this come from? Is it simply an adage? Did Jesus say it? Or is it one of those phrases like “God helps those who help themselves” that sounds scriptural, but isn’t?
Well, let’s dig in a bit. And as we dig, you’ll see that this phrase is like one of those images that change on you as you pull back, revealing a completely different picture as the perspective changes.
Jesus said it, but…
The phrase came from the lips of the apostle Paul as he was quoting Jesus. But none of the gospels record Jesus saying these words. And that’s okay. John notes in his gospel that Jesus did many other things that aren’t written down (John 20:30-31). Paul could have learned this from oral tradition (words and teachings of Jesus orally passed along; in fact, the gospels probably hadn’t even been written when Paul quoted this phrase) or from one of his revelation experiences (Acts 9, 1 Cor. 11:23; 2 Cor. 12:1). And of course, the phrase, is a perfect summation of Jesus’ teachings on giving, such as these words from Jesus in Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Pull back a little farther:
We learn a little more about this phrase when we see how Paul used it. First, he was saying goodbye to his dear friends of the Ephesus church. He was travelling to Jerusalem to share about God’s amazing grace, but it was a mission he wasn’t sure he would survive. So, you know this was a poignant goodbye scene. Everything shared in this scene is important, and this phrase about giving was the last point in his goodbye, a spot reserved usually for the most important.
Paul was making the point that we should keep ourselves in a position, through everything we do, to help the weak. To then add some heft to that point, he quoted Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Who are the weak?
Commentator Simon Kistemaker points out that the poor, the destitute, and the physically weak were widely overlooked in the Gentile culture of New Testament days. These are the kinds of situations Paul was likely referring to in his use of the word “weak.” New Christians reached out to the weak out of gratitude for the mercy they had received from Christ. We don’t have to look very far or think too creatively to know who are the poor, destitute and physically weak around us today.
A “Giving Lifestyle” 2017 application:
So, while we tend to think of this admonition that giving is better than receiving as a good general rule to live by (which it is), it has a more pinpointed purpose. Help the weak. In fact, you could even say that we are to rearrange our lives to be in a better position to help the weak. So, with Giving Tuesday recently passed (November 28, 2017), rather than thinking in terms of a day of giving, maybe we can think more about a lifestyle of giving.
Giving to InWord?
Organized as a non-profit when founded in 1996, InWord relies on the faithful giving of those who have a heart for InWord’s work. We’d like to invite you to explore InWord to see if you might you be one of “those.” You can use the links below to learn more about the ministry of InWord or to give online through one of our secure online donation pages.
Or feel free to send an email to InWord’s founder/director, Barry Shafer: