35 In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 ASV
During my morning devotional, I am often floored by revelations the Spirit gives me about the real meaning of some cherished and oft-quoted Bible verses. Today, while reading from Acts, I came across verse 20:35 and the famous quote of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Like many of you, I had often heard this verse given to encourage the congregation to more faithfully give tithes and offerings. And this verse is irresistible, because Jesus said it.
But this particular morning, as I was rereading the verse I was aware of the context of it. Paul was giving a recount of his service to God since his conversion. He preached and taught faithfully despite suffering and persecution everywhere he went. He ministered solely to serve God and His people: his reward was that he finished his course and that his conscious would be clear. What was his motivation? It was certainly not money because he worked to support himself and his ministry. Not only himself, he help the those who ministered with him. His desire was to be self supporting and able to help the poor and infirm (Galatians 2:10).
It is within this context that Paul quotes Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul is not asking the elders listening to him to give to Paul and Paul’s ministry, but rather that they should follow his example be able to financially give to their flock rather than take money from them.
I am not going to get into the issue about whether clergy should be paid or receive other forms of financial compensation from their congregation. I feel this is up to each individual congregation to decide. I wish rather to apply this to the issue of asking and receiving finances from God.
The popular teaching in Christendom today is the belief that God wants all His people to be prosperous (wealthy, rich, loaded, healthy, popular, happy, influential, etc). This is the so-called “prosperity gospel.” I would not argue that God wants His people to be poor, sick, downtrodden, and miserable. No scripture supports this position. I would like to posit that God – like Paul in Acts 20 – wants us to be prosperous in order to be a blessing to others.
God set in motion a plan whereby He would raise up sons and daughters who are in His image and reflect His nature and holiness. One facet of God is that He is a giver. He is eager to bless His people who ask and believe they will receive. If we are truly children of God, that should be our principle as well.
God gives us the power to have wealth. This wealth is first to support ourselves and our families. We are also able to help others in need: widows, orphans, the sick, and the weak. We are blessed to become burden bearers and load lifters.
We have the quantity and quality of faith which enables us to go before the Creator of the Universe and ask for money or the things money will buy. Let us also determine in our heart that because the God ( the Universe) has so freely given to us all that we asked, we will likewise be the vessels through which the prayers of the needy are answered by God.
And let not my prayers be quid pro quo – if you bless me Lord, I will give a portion of my finances to the poor and infirm. Rather let my prayers be full of praise and thanksgiving that you have blessed me to be able to support myself through work and to participate in Your ministry of Agape: that through me – and my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus – the whole world might be blessed.