The Expository Files

 

It Is Better To Give

Acts 20:35

 

 Have you ever considered the ability to give as a blessing? Most think negatively about giving, rather than trying to appreciate the joy of giving. Paul tells us that Jesus said, “It is better to give than it is to receive” (Acts 20:35). What do these words mean to you? Perhaps some probing questions would serve to help us examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Is laying by in store on the first day of the week a blessing or a burden to you? It is not merely an obligation. It is a privilege. It should be a treat to us. It should make us cheerful. Is it not a blessing to be prosperous? Paul says, “give as you have prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Hence, count it not a burden, but a joy to be able to give back to Him who gives to us so abundantly. Are you the cheerful giver God loves (2 Corinthians 9:7)?

Do you work to receive or do you work to give? An interesting question indeed. Paul said, “Let him who stole, steal no longer, but let him labor with his hands that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). Have you considered your ability to earn an income as an opportunity to give to others? Our culture teaches us that if you want more—you must work more and earn more. While this is true literally, it defies the Biblical concept of contentment (1 Timothy 6:6). Worse yet is that even if you do not have the money on hand to buy it, you can charge it to a credit card. This not only makes it more difficult it for you in the long run (1 Timothy 6:7-10), it renders you unable to give, except to cover your debts, for some time to come. Thus, instead of glorifying God with your riches and laying up treasures in heaven, you have gratified yourself and laid up debts on earth. If you think that you work to receive, a renewal of the spirit of your mind is in order (Ephesians 4:20-24).

Where is your bank account? Your first impulse might have accurately assessed your mindset. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). If you initially thought of some financial institution on earth, perhaps that is where your heart is also—even if your first answer was immediately corrected with the “right answer.” Laying up your treasures in heaven implies a “give” mindset, whereas storing up for yourselves treasures on earth implies a “receive” mindset. Jesus told the rich young ruler to go and sell what he had and give to the poor, then he would have treasure in heaven (cf. Matthew 19:21). We must conform our first thoughts to be like God’s thoughts if we are to appreciate the true joy of giving.

Do you know what it is to give beyond your ability? This is not to speak of the self-inflicted sorrow that results from spending beyond our ability. Paul speaks of those who gave, not only according to their ability, but beyond their ability—and they did so joyfully. Not only did they do this, they begged Paul to accept their liberal gift for the saints in Judea. Paul writes, “Moreover brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed upon the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction that abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). This beautiful account was spurred by a sacrificial spirit that found joy in giving and serving others. The widow who gave who her whole livelihood demonstrated this same spirit. Jesus said of her, “Assuredly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who had given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:41-44). So, giving is not a privilege reserved for the rich, but a blessing bestowed upon all—an even greater blessing than receiving.

Is your giving characteristic of your faith? There is a direct correlation between the two. Unfortunately, televangelists have abused this correlation to their own profit (God will be their judge). Nevertheless, their covetousness is couched in a Biblical principal. It takes faith to give. It takes faith to sacrifice. It takes faith to give of yourself—with only the promise of a blessing in return—especially when such blessing inherently requires trial, adversity, suffering, pain and further sacrifice—first and foremost—and blessing later. It takes faith to find joy in such endeavors. The Lord told His disciples, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). What we give demonstrates the level of faith we have in the Lord to fulfill His promises (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15). Indeed, we say our own lives are forfeit for the Lord (Luke 14:26, 33), but do our actions reflect our words? Do our works typify our faith? This does not imply that we should abandon our families, lay everything we have in the collection plate, and wander this world in an ascetic existence. He gives us freely all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). Nevertheless, the true joy of receiving blessings is found only in the ability to give fully and freely. The faithless cannot appreciate these truths.

Let us remember, whatever a man sows, that will he also reap (Galatians 6:7). If we sow abundantly, we shall reap abundantly (2 Corinthians 9:6). The implication can also be made that if we sow begrudgingly, our reward will be bitterness and resentment. If we sow joyfully, our reward will be blessings and true prosperity.

Do you truly appreciate the words of our Lord, “It is better to give than it is to receive” (Acts 20:35)?

 

   By Jonathan Perz
From Expository Files 21.10; October 2014

 

 

 

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