Giving, getting and God

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35.

The book of Acts in the New Testament was written by Gospel-writer Luke and, for my money, is the easiest of the New Testament books to understand.

Also called the “Acts of the Apostles,” it is positioned just after the Gospels and before the 13 Pauline letters (letters of Paul). Acts recounts the “acts” or activities of the Apostles, believers and disbelievers in the first weeks and years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This includes the Ascension of Jesus, the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), formation of the early church, the stoning of Steven (the first martyr and first to pray in the name of Jesus), the conversion of Paul, Paul’s missionary journeys, arrests, trials and escapes, the Bereans, the Sanhedrin, Rome … it’s a busy book of faith, action, adventure, personalities and history; not complex theology.

It also includes Paul’s famed “Farewell to the Ephesian Elders” (Acts 20:18-35), a speech that concludes “remembering the words of our Lord Jesus himself…” – Paul quoting Christ’s famous truth – “‘…it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Jesus was 100 percent about giving: He gave his life and received nothing but death on the Cross, giving God glory in heaven. Our fallen human nature is weighted heavily toward receiving rather than giving. We want to receive salvation in exchange for giving praise; we think “receiving” salvation is the blessing. Jesus teaches the blessing is in the giving; in giving all to others, in giving praise and glory to God and in taking up – receiving – nothing but our cross.

Quite obviously, that’s often not the way the world works. Sure, we all have inside us the will to do for others. There is a name for that, which is our “humanity.” We also have inside of us a fear of death, which makes us “human” and governs our efforts to “do” for ourselves at the expense of God and others. There is a name for that too, which is sin.

Some argue because this “blessed to give” line is not in the Gospels,it is somehow false. The Apostle John says plainly (John 21:25) “Jesus did many other things” not written in the Gospels.  Looking at what is written everywhere in the Bible, we clearly see a Jesus who gave.

And the truth rings clear in Acts 20:35: The blessing is in the giving.