“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.’ ”
-Acts 20:35 (NKJV)
It tickles me that Paul is fake quoting Messiah here. You know how in some Bibles the words of the Master are written in red ink? My Blue Letter Bible NKJV shows these words in red, but when I searched the Bible, I couldn’t find the exact quote. For just a moment that bothered me, but I realized that Paul was synthesizing the Master’s teachings into a brief word to be shared with Elders of Ephesus as he was departing from them. The phrasing of the decree feels a bit like it comes from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), though it strays from the format. Those details are interesting which is why I chose to share them, but getting into the meat of the message. What does it mean to be blessed?
A quick break down of the context of the verse. First, Paul mentions that he has shown them to labor to support the weak, by himself laboring to support those with him. Paul lived out the example of meeting his own needs and for more than his own, as I already stated. He is talking to the Elders here, likely to encourage him to be as beyond reproach as he is. In the Torah and earlier in Acts, qualifications for leaders are high, they are meant to be moral and pure, almost fleshly manifestations of the Divine. That might sound extreme, but if you look at the Hebrew, elders are called “elokim” in the Torah. That is a name of the Almighty, and yet mean are called that in the text. That seems borderline blasphemous, but I think that it is a title that bears weight upon the one who receives it. It is a title that demands much of the recipient. Being given a title like The Holy One, Blessed Be He, is no small matter. Here we are back at the word blessed. Who is more Blessed than our Heavenly Father? I wonder if the message that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” is an exhortation to give and give in order to become more blessed, so that one can become more godlike.
It almost feels like a trick. Blessings are good. Who doesn’t want to be blessed and have blessings? Those who receive are blessed, but those who give are more blessed; which camp do you want to be in? If there is a way to channel more blessings towards oneself, where is the harm in that? Is His arm too short, is there a limit to the blessings He can give? Heaven forbid! If one acts more selflessly and gives of their self more deeply, even if their intentions are less than noble, I would wager that the act still has the power to change them. After all how long can someone act godly before they start to become more godly?