We have all heard the expression, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” but do you know who said it, or in what context it was used?
In Acts 20, Paul meets with the leaders of the church in Ephesus. During the course of this talk, he tells them: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
They had a responsibility to lead the church and they were to take that role seriously.
He ends his speech with these words from Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (verse 35).
Now, on first glance, it looks like Paul is changing the subject, or throwing in something else to think about. After all, he has been talking about being a leader and influencing others, and suddenly he is talking about “giving.” What happened here? Did we miss something?
Not at all.
The reason Paul ends his speech that way is because that is how the leaders were going to get things done.
Their leadership was not to be characterized by “lording it over others,” or trying to get something for themselves, but by being servants (see 1 Peter 5:2-4). In fact, that is exactly how Paul saw himself. Almost every letter that he writes opens with words like, “Paul, a servant (or slave) of Christ Jesus…”
Paul was a leader, but he was not “the boss.” He was not interested in what he could get. Instead, he wanted to know what he could give. He was not there for himself, but for them.
Church leadership is not about “keeping people in line” or being the guard in the watchtower ready to shoot anyone who strays the wrong way. Real influence and leadership comes when we serve one another. Lives are changed when we put others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
It was said of Jesus that he, “…did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
If we are going to make a difference in this life, or in eternity, we have to learn this lesson: nothing is accomplished by force or guilt. All leadership in the spiritual realm is servant leadership.
Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? Because God works that way.