More Blessed to Give than Receive

Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). While these words are familiar, I think a lot of us hear something more like, "You should really want to give more instead of receive." For some reason, many of us hear Jesus presenting a dichotomy between giving and receiving, and admonishing us to focus on giving instead of receiving.

But we can only understand small snippets of Scripture when we keep in mind the bigger picture. Over and over, the Bible clearly states that we have nothing to give except that which we have received (Jn.3:27; 1Cor.4:7). So Jesus could only be telling us to give away what we have been given. There is no other possibility. He is not saying, "Just give and give and give, and forget about receiving." That is a recipe for burnout, or worse. There is no way for us to give what we have not already received — we are simply not that powerful! Receiving is the only basis for giving. "Freely you received, freely give (Mt.10:8).

In order to keep from hearing that word "instead" in our mind, we may need to rephrase this tiny statement in ways that take into account His other teaching about receiving and giving. Perhaps something like, "It is even more blessed to give than it is to receive." As wonderful as it is to learn how to receive all that God wants to pour into our life (1Cor.2:12) it is even more wonderful to discover how life-giving it can be for us when we learn how to give away what God has given to us. Our Father loves to give, and He wants us to learn how to receive life from Him (e.g. Isa.55). He also wants us to learn how to give away what He is giving us, because it brings us to a whole new place of joy. We are designed to give away life to others. That is one of the many ways we have been created in the image of God.

Receiving from God is not a one-time thing (conversion). He means to pour into our soul for the rest of our life and on into eternity. That is the nature of Grace — God doing for us and in us what we can never do for ourselves. Nor is receiving a bad thing, a selfish act that we are supposed to outgrow. We need to receive from God and others just as much as we need water, food, and air. And God does not merely scatter bread crumbs. He gives lavishly (Eph.1:7-8) and with outrageous abandon!

In fact, it is only because God gives so much that we can give away freely what we have been given, without fear of scarcity or depletion. Receiving is beautiful and essential to life. To join with God in His joy of giving good gifts to others is greater still!

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