"It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
Now you would think, to hear all the testimonies of God's miraculous provision for personal needs, that "receiving" would be more blessed than "giving." Not so! Despite our reveling in "receiving," our Lord says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"!
Obviously, there is a principle of blessedness that we are missing in our search for happiness and answers to prayer.
Here is a thought. We do not control "receiving." The other fellow does. Therefore, there is no merit in receiving ... no commendable initiative on our part. Not so with "giving." Giving is something that we control. It requires sacrifice. It requires compassion. It requires effort. No wonder Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Receiving is self-centered. Giving centers on others.
I think this Scripture touches on the very character of heaven. We talk of streets of gold ... of reward ... of mansions ... of relief from suffering ... of personal peace and joy. We think of heaven as a place of "receiving," and yet the Lord of heaven says that it is more blessed to give than to receive! Is there an aspect of heaven that has escaped us in our concept of that glorious place? I believe there is ... simply because I know how empty life is if we "dead end" everything with ourselves.
It is not the receivers in life that are the happiest. It is the givers. Is God going to reverse this principle in heaven? I think not. This is not to take away from the promises of streets of gold and the alleviation of suffering ... but the character of heaven ... the thing that makes it "heavenly" ... has to be in "giving" ... in meaningful ministry ... in relationships that have to do with others more than with ourselves.
Now if this be true, and I believe it is, then we know why Jesus advocated it as a principle to live by on earth. The "more blessed" way is the way of giving. It is true that we cannot "give" what we have not "received." But the greater joy is not in receiving.
The greater joy is in passing on that which we have received.
Some never know this joy. They think that they will find sufficient happiness in "receiving." How wrong they are! Those who squander their blessings on themselves forfeit the greater joy of giving. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Let's think about the relationship of giving and receiving. There is an important lesson that we can learn. We do not "give" in order to "receive." We "receive" in order that we may "give”! God is not a "Coke machine" into which we put money and expect to receive something to satisfy ourselves. Neither is giving a "means" to selfish "ends."
Ah, you say, but God says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). He also says, "Prove me now herewith, it I will not open you the windows of heaven ..." (Malachi 4:10). True! Absolutely true! God does give ... and we do receive ... "good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over."
But unless we believe and practice the "more blessed" principle of giving, the selfish accumulation of wealth and blessing will go sour on us. We must learn that "receiving" is only the beginning of a blessed process ... and not until that which has been received has been passed on to others is the "greater blessing" experienced.
We need to look at our motives.
Do we tithe with our eyes on the "windows of heaven”? If we do, we will be blessed ... but not" more blessed." We need to keep our eyes on the object of our giving ... on a lost and suffering world. Only then will we be "more blessed."
This truth about giving can be applied in every sphere of life. Governments could learn from it. Take a welfare state, for instance. The weakness of a welfare state is that it creates a "receiver" class. Any government that sponsors a program to "give" to the poor is to be commended. But the poor "receiver" who does not learn the blessedness of "giving" is in danger of becoming a self-centered malcontent. There are none so poor that they cannot give. The "gift" of giving is not the domain of the rich. It can be the possession of anyone who has learned that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The poor need to learn this lesson.
Jesus said that He came "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister." In other words, He did not come to receive, but to give.
A missionary quit after one term of service. He had related well to the national church. He was well liked by his fellow missionaries. His ministry had been effective. Yet he quit. When asked why, he said, "I just wasn't fulfilled."
Think of it! He quit because he had "received" nothing for himself from his ministry! He quit because he was not willing to "give" unless he could "receive"! Poor fellow! He missed the greater blessing.
But what about fulfillment... isn't it something to be desired? Certainly! Not only is fulfillment desirable, but it usually comes to those who walk in the will of God. You see, fulfillment is a by-product of obedience. It comes to those who practice the principle of the greater blessedness of giving.
This principle of the blessedness of giving has intrinsic value that is only apparent when there are no "returns" apart from the blessedness itself.
As long as we "benefit" from our giving, we will be hard put to know whether the blessedness is in the "receiving" or in the "giving." Maybe that is why the Lord allows us to do so many "thankless" tasks!
I remember an occasion in Africa. I had given and given and given again. Still the "receivers" were complaining. Finally, in exasperation, I blurted out, "You could at least appreciate all I've done for you!" I could have bit my tongue the moment I said it. How I wished I could have pulled my words back! I saw the smile on the faces of my hearers. They had forced me to reveal how important "receiving" was to me!
It has been said that God can accomplish much with the man who doesn't care who gets the credit. How true! Our concern with proper recognition ... with titles ... with plaques and platitudes ... shows how important "receiving" is to us. We bask in the warmth of accolades, and we resent it if we are overlooked. To make sure we are seen of men we, like the Pharisees, publicize our statistics, proclaim our fasts, and make sure our right hand knows what our left hand is doing. We are willing to be "givers" if we "receive" proper credit for it. Shame on us! Verily we have our reward! We have forgotten that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Can this principle be applied to personal experience?
I believe that it can ... and should. The Christian whose salvation is current and vibrant is not the one who gets saved and "sits" on his experience. The radiant believer is the one who is passing his blessing on to others.
I know that it is "blessed" to be saved. I know that to receive forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life is an unforgettable happening. But the joy soon fades if salvation is not shared. We have too many satiated saints who "receive" week after week but never "give" of that which they have "received." The man who becomes a channel for blessing ... who gives as fast as he takes in ... is the "more blessed" man.
What is true of salvation is also true of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is "given" to enable us to "give." But look at what has happened. The emphasis, these days, has turned to "receiving." We have vast numbers of Spirit-filled people whose only interest is to experience over and over again the ecstasy of "being filled." So they congregate for the sole purpose of enjoying the blessedness of spiritual manifestations.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking charismatic climaxes. There is a "giving" of ourselves in worship that is absolutely necessary to spiritual life and growth. What I am saying is that the Holy Spirit was poured out for a purpose ... and that purpose is the fulfilling of the Great Commission. If we stop short of that, we have aborted the will of God. We have "received" but we have not "given." If we do not "give" of that which we have "received," we become guilty of spiritual surfeiting and drunkenness!
To conclude, let me say again, "We do not give in order to receive. We receive in order to give." I readily admit that "receivers" are blessed. Why shouldn't I? I am a "receiver" myself, and I count my many blessings every day. But my point is this: While "receivers" are blessed, "givers" are more blessed! Therefore receivers should be givers.
I move among the "more blessed" constantly ... in the forests ... in the deserts ... and in the cities. I move among committed men and women who are "givers."
Their faces are lined by toil and bronzed by the sun. They are far from home, and few know of their deeds. They give of themselves constantly. They do not ask for "thanks." But, please, don't feel sorry for them. They belong to that glorious army of God's soldiers who have learned that "it is more blessed to 'give' than to 'receive'"!