As Paul made ready to depart from the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he spoke words of great encouragement to them. He instructed them to protect, to teach and to be watchful over the flock which God has purchased with His own blood. He wanted them to be good stewards, both over the Church and over their own lives. But the last and perhaps most important words recorded in this Ephesian elders meeting were the words of Jesus Himself. Paul recalled, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Paul was not a rich man, probably not even well-to-do, but he certainly knew what it was to work. And more importantly, he knew the reason why he worked. He said, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.”
He labored so that his needs might be met, needs like food and clothing—the basics we still need today. There is no sign of Paul’s motivation to work being focused upon wealth, prosperity or material gain. His work was for necessity’s sake because he who is not willing to work simply will not eat. But certainly Paul did not spend all his earnings on food and clothing, did he? Most people don’t. There is generally an abundance somewhere in the financial books for those whom God allows the privilege and physical ability to work. What we choose to do with that which is beyond our physical need and the needs of our family is going to determine a lot about our spiritual health. Paul broke it down into two categories; his own needs and the needs of those who were with him. It seems he did not have a retirement fund, a vacation fund, a 401K or any of the dozens of savings accounts the world would deem necessary today.
What would happen if we did the same, if we looked at the money that we earned on a weekly basis, payed our bills, bought our groceries and clothed our children, and then lifted our eyes to the needs of those who are around us? I’m definitely not saying that it’s always wrong to save or invest in the future, but what Paul’s words teach us is that to limit ourselves to the kind thinking that looks only to our own interests, is to miss out on a huge blessing from God. Remember? “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
One last thing to consider is the people to whom Paul is speaking. They were the leaders of the Church, the spiritual Elders and counselors for God’s flock. Paul took care to include financial stewardship, work and the willingness to give in his final instructions. These men would never see Paul after this day. As their pastor, mentor and a spiritual father to many of them, his words are going to stick with them forever.
The leaders in our churches today need to take from this example. Elders meetings should include this kind of instruction. Pastors need to lead by example in all things, teaching the Church to live a life of hard work, good family stewardship, and abundant giving for the sake of others’ needs. An elder’s life should reflect the joy of giving and receiving, and trusting in God’s provision. As people and communities watch the example of their leaders, people whose lives are lived primarily for God and for meeting the needs of the weak, the flock will follow suit and be better for it.
Work hard. Provide for your family. Give as much as you can and watch the blessings pour in to your life!
Acts 20:35: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”