Online Bible Commentary
It is More Blessed to Give than to Receive
Acts 20:33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " 36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship. (NKJV)
The time is spring, 57 A.D. The Apostle Paul is on his way back home from his third missionary journey. Paul has sailed to Miletus, Asia where he has taken time to meet with the elders of the church in Ephesus.
Paul’s message to the elders is presented in four parts. In the preceding passages he recalled his faithful ministry to believers in Asia, his future ahead, and his charge to the elders of the work ahead required of them after he departs.
In this passage Paul concludes his message and bids farewell to the elders. He concludes his message by showing himself as an example of servant leadership for the elders to follow.
Paul remarks that he always paid his own way, never coveting someone else’s riches or fine clothing (v. 33). He stretches out his hands and remarks that “these hands” ministered to his needs and the needs of those who served with him (v. 34). No doubt this is a reference to his occupation as a tentmaker and how he provided financially for his ministry and those who ministered with him.
He then called the elders to also work so that they could “support the weak” (v. 35a). The Greek word translated “support” is the word “antilambano” which means to come to the aid of or to benefit. The Greek word translated “weak” is the word “astheneo” which means to be weak, or ill.
So, at this time, Paul is calling the elders to minister to the financial or physical needs of those who could not help themselves, such as widows and orphans and those who were too old or too ill to work. He then reinforces his statement by citing the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (v. 35b). These words of Jesus are not cited anywhere else in the Bible. Jesus said much more than what was recorded in the Gospels (Jn. 21:25).
With those important parting words Paul is now ready to bid farewell to the elders. First he “knelt down and prayed with them all” (v. 36). Then Paul broke the sad news that this would be his last visit to Asia, that “they would see his face no more” (v. 38a). And with that the elders could no longer contain their emotions. “They all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him” (v. 37).
Now it was time for Paul to continue his long voyage to Jerusalem, where he hoped to arrive by Pentecost, which was now less than 25 days away. The elders, having said their goodbyes, then “accompanied him to the ship” (v. 38b).
So Paul’s last words to the elders Of Ephesus was that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He instructed them to work hard so that they would have money left over to help those who could not help themselves. And he encouraged them that they would be blessed for their faithfulness.
We are blessed in at least three ways by helping others. We receive that inner satisfaction of knowing that we have helped someone. Secondly, God remembers our blessing and brings others into our lives to bless us in return. And finally, we are rewarded in Heaven for the good we do on this earth.
One dark night, almost twenty years ago while on a trip, our van left my wife and I and our three young sons stranded in a McDonald’s parking lot in a strange town, namely Athens, Texas. About that time a black man and his young son came out of the McDonald’s and asked if we needed help.
After a while the man got our van running and I reached for my wallet. But he stopped me, saying “No, no, if you pay me you will rob me of my blessing!” I never forgot that and ever since have accepted willingly the help of others. Because, you see, it is more blessed to give than to receive.