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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity



 "It is more blessed to give than to receive."



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“My priest/minister quotes the scripture ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ whenever he wants us to contribute money to the church. It makes me feel guilty not to give money when he implies that it’s God’s will for me to do so.”

The verse, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” from the apostle Paul in the book of Acts, means virtually the opposite of what your preacher suggests. His interpretation is outrageous and but thinly-veiled self-promotion.





More blessed to give than to receive? - so how come certain ones are always on the receiving end?

I once had a good friend, an older Black man, who enjoyed telling a joke about his father who'd been a share-cropper: "Dad did most of the croppin' and the owner did most of the sharin'."

That's funny. Except when such unfair imbalance happens to you. This joke reminds us of a verse in the book of Acts. It's famous. Likely you've heard it quoted. But you've probably never heard explanation regarding the true contextual meaning.


Acts 20:35. The apostle Paul quotes 'Jesus [who] said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.'


The words, "more blessed to give than to receive," appear, on the surface, to be a pleasant platitude on the lips of Paul as he says good-bye to the Ephesian elders - almost like the modern throw-away phrase, "Have a nice day!"

Such sentiment describes neither the tenor nor the message of Paul. A careful reading of the entire, extended passage reveals an utterly different meaning.

Let's have a look at a more-complete context of this famous biblical verse.  

    Acts 20: 17-38

    17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

    18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you,

    19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews;

    20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,

    21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

    22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

    23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

    24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

    25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.

    26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

    27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

    28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

    29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

    30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

    31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

    32 So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

    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.



      Ephesus was a seaport town in what is today Turkey


You've never heard the famous verse 35 of Acts 20 expounded in detail -- because the contextual message is very damning toward the activities of many of the clergy today.

Let's look at the details.

(1) Paul had served these people to such an extent, had spent himself, and deprived himself, well beyond the call of duty, that he, in plain but utterly sincere language, could say to the house-churches of Ephesus (vs. 20): "You well know how I bent over backwards to serve your needs" (vss. 18, 19).

(2) Paul ups-the-ante of his point by straight-forwardly reminding them that his work was performed free of charge (vs. 33); moreover, he wants them to know -- though he could have lived off of donations -- that he held down a day-job to pay his own way; and, this spartan living, not only for himself but his helpers as well (vs. 34). Additionally, his servant-life was no stranger to danger and threat of death (vs. 22).

(3) Notice also how Paul makes a strong point about how frankly, openly, and sincerely, he had spoken to them (vss. 20, 27); in other words, he had no hidden agenda. He didn't slant his story in order to "sell them something." What-you-see-is-what-you-get with Paul. He didn't talk down to his people. He expected them to be able to understand what he understood, and to live a good life, to the same degree as he was living it. For Paul, there was no separation of "the elites" and "the commoners." Only wolves talk that way.

Paul, in his departing words, finds himself overcome with a deep sense of foreboding about the future state of the congregation.


He perceives that some of those now referred to as "elders" - the religious leadership of the church - will make merchandise of the group when he's gone - politician "wolves" he calls them (vs. 29), those driven by base passions and appetites but masquerading as God's servants.



With tears streaming down his face, Paul announces that some of those in the very group he was addressing would have hidden agendas; they would take the congregation's money; they would not speak plainly but "perversely," with double-talk, all for the express reason of building a power-base for "themselves" (vs. 30).

And in case anyone missed his point (vs. 35), he underlined it in red by saying that his purpose for laboring so hard - all that he did in Ephesus - was to set an example of effective, compassionate, ministerial service characterized by "supporting the weak."

Stated differently, Paul is saying that he wanted to be a living, walking example of The Truth of what it meant to be an authentic spiritual leader. In verse 35 he also emphasizes that he did not serve as spiritual leader by living off the money that could have been commanded from the Church but, instead, he paid his own way. He did not want to give even the impression that he was taking advantage of anyone, lest this misperception hurt someone in their relationship with God.

And now we come, in the same verse (35), to that famous line: It is more blessed to give than to receive.

In context, a fuller sense of Paul's meaning becomes clear regarding quoting Jesus, the Authentic Spiritual Leader, who gave up everything to serve the Church. Jesus didn't pass the plate for donations. This is why Paul quotes Jesus.

"Blessed" does not refer to "happiness," a pleasant psychological state of mind; here "blessed" has the sense of "prosperous." (Think of the beatitudes of Mat. 5: "You'll be prosperous if you do this, it will be well for you if you do that."

We must bear in mind the audience - these are church elders - Paul is speaking to the religious leaders, not the ordinary members of the church.

When Paul uses the words, It is more blessed to give than to receive, he means to say:

"The Church will be more prosperous if we, the religious leaders, support and give to the weak, rather than acting like wolves - prowling, on the take, seeking to satisfy base appetites and passions, at the expense of the members. The Church will be infinitely more successful if we, the elders, take day-jobs, support ourselves, and give no hint of fleecing the congregation. Do not take monetary support from the church, even though, technically, as 'laborers in God's field,' you may have a right to. I say don't do it. It creates the wrong psychological dynamic between elder and member. The Church, at large, will be far more prosperous if we, the leadership, set the example of sacrificial service, taking nothing, just as Jesus asked for no donations from the crowds. My authority for saying all this is the Master-Teacher's own words, 'It is more success-oriented to be the one who gives rather than the one who receives.'"

But there were those listening to Paul who couldn't wait for him to get on that ship so they could be about their sheep-shearing business.


It is the height of irony, double-talk, and chutzpah that religious politician-wolves will often employ this very verse - Acts 20:25 - as scriptural basis for an appeal for money from the flock.

They will try to make you feel guilty for not shelling out more cash as they chant, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" - incredibly, a verse quoting the words of the great apostle Paul, one who would not accept donations, and worked a day-job, lest he become an offense to others; and, by these famous words, meant to restrain the wolves from fleecing the flock. (This audacity, and bold-faced deception, is also seen in Washington today where certain ones will quote the Constitution, will claim to uphold it, as they support totalitarian policies that the Founders would have spit upon.)

Editor’s note: The modern materialistic church, with its contests among pastors to see who can build the largest church-campus, will give you a song-and-dance like this:

“It’s true that some of the early church elders did not take salaries or receive donations from the membership, but that was just a temporary convention for those times. The modern church can do so much more in the community with the economic stability of paid professional staff. We can’t expect people to have day-jobs and then work for the church, as it would be too tiring. We can do so much more with monetary support.”

much better to receive than to give

In other words, their argument is, “It is more blessed to receive than to give.” And this was Constantine’s argument, too, when he bribed the church leadership with promises of real estate and societal status – marking the end of a more spiritually-oriented church and the rise of the materialistic church as just another corporate ego-institution of the world.

To those who say that Paul’s economic advice is outdated, and no longer applicable to clergy-leadership and the success of the church, I will simply make the statement, “Your plan has worked out so well for the church, hasn’t it?”



Paul is leaving Ephesus. It is instructive to consider what he does not say.

He does not say,

"This is my church. I started everything here. I built it with my sweat and blood. I expect to have weekly reports mailed to me on all developments. I want to be involved in all decisions. I intend to maintain a steel grip on all things done here. Wherever I am is "world headquarters of the church," and nothing is to be done without my say-so."

He had something of a right to say this. It was his own labor that started the congregation in Ephesus.

But he does not say this, even in the knowledge that the Ephesian church would soon be attacked by wolves! Paul can sense the attitudes of some in the group. He knows who the money-mongers are. He knows those who love the glory and the "chief seats," but would never get their hands dirty. What they are is written all over their faces.

Instead, he says: "I commend you to God" (vs. 32). He believed in decentralized authority, decision-making on the local level. He was no power-and-control freak, but trusted the Spirit to eventually sort things out.

A wolf never talks that way -- they'll never say, "I commend you to God, and I'll step aside"; for them, it's all about money, power, sex, control, and empire-building, and "how many new tithe-payers did we bring in this week?" All these are manifestations of a wolf's ravenous appetite, the "neediness within" of the "false self."



Remember this...

Some of those who wept with Paul that day, hugged his neck, bit their lower lips, and kissed him (vs. 37), as he departed, might have won an academy award for best supporting actor... very convincing... except to Paul... he knew what they were, on the inside... vicious, hungry, base, prowling, predatory, wolves.

That's why you've never heard too much detail about verse 35; as Paul said, frankness was never really their strong suit (vss. 20, 27, 30).


What are the implications of all this?

This question, and the word implication, always makes me think of an incident in one of Paul's other congregations, the church in Galatia. (See the map above, as it would be located in the northern part of Turkey.)

Peter was visiting the Galatian church, one that Paul had built. I won't go into the details, but Peter shunned the Gentile members and ate only with the Jewish group.

Well, when Paul heard about this he went a little ballistic. In front of the whole congregation, Paul called Peter a hypocrite (Galatians 2: 11-14), and dressed him down royally for treating the Greek members as second-class Christians. This is another verse you haven't heard much about; especially from those who purport to "sit in the chair of Peter."

It's not that Peter was a bad guy. It's just that he'd spent his whole life in Jewish culture. And, in view of this "baggage," the Jews were fond of calling the Gentiles little pet names like "dogs" and "swine."

So, now Paul comes along and announces to the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem that God had given the Spirit to the Gentiles. Well, they had to think about this one. This was new and would take a little getting used to.

When Peter visited the Gentile congregation of Galatia, he hadn't really processed the real meaning of what it meant for Gentiles to be considered full brothers and sisters in Christ. It sounded good in theory, but, at mealtimes, Peter did what he'd always done since childhood -- he treated the Gentiles as if they were lepers, and wouldn't socialize with them.

Peter, quite abruptly, learned from Paul that the old ways were now obsolete. And that he needed to discover the true implications of what the teachings of Jesus really signified.


What is the purpose of religion?

There's a reason why there're so many tens of thousands of religious groups, isms, sects, denominations, etc., etc.

The variation is extensive because each caters to a specific level of consciousness or maturity of its members; or, lack thereof.

Religion was meant to be a temporary phase in one's development. But most of the world has taken up permanent residence.

Are you offended by this statement? It's what the Apostle Paul said. Here's one more of those areas of scripture the wolves never mention. Paul said that religion - all forms of legalistic, rule-book religion - is like kindergarten, or the nursery, or the ABCs, or even a prison.

Religion, said Paul, is like being a little kid and having a nanny follow you around to make sure you do the right thing. But, when you grow up, Paul said, the time for nannies is over; unless, so to speak, you intend never to get a job and just live in your mother's basement.

(See the Galatians commentary for a full discussion.)

What are the implications of freedom, of maturity, in the economy of God? What does this mean?

The wolves will never address this, because, they really don't want you to mature, to get uppity and start wandering off the plantation. They intend to keep you dependent, "paying and praying."

Maybe the most important question is this: Do you want to wander off the plantation? out of the nursery? beyond the ABCs?

Many people do not; not yet. There's a sense of security in the nursery. Life seems well regulated. Predictable. Certain. But only to an infant.

Niccolo Machiavelli, 1513: "There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things... It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free a people that wants to remain servile as it is to enslave a people that wants to remain free."


the two views, religion and spirituality

On one side, we have the wolves, who will encourage our fears, and will suggest that we, without them, are no good; and that we need them to keep us in line, lest we run wild with immorality -- a restraining and supervisory service to be rendered for the usual and customary fee, of course; Acts 20:35 notwithstanding.

But then there are people like the apostle Paul who will appeal to one's higher nature, and will say, "Everything is ok! You were made in the image of God. You have nothing to worry about and everything wonderful will be found within that soul of yours, your True Self, that God gave you. All you have to do is reduce the fears, and you'll find your True Self ready to break out into the freedom, and real you, you were meant to have and to be."

Many of the Word Gems articles add detail to this discussion.


Afterlife Bible Hell God
Jesus Christ Clear Thinking Satan Summary


they bought and sold you... controlled you...


While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I look at you and see the love there that's sleeping...
I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you...





Editor's last word:

Pastor Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, analyzing the story of Jesus in the gospels, instructs us that Jesus became disillusioned with his own efforts to bring peace to the world, that he changed his mind regarding how to help people evolve spiritually. See the article here.

The implications are profound. The resultant Church, springing from the early work of Jesus, represents a mistake, an abortive attempt at "group salvation," by the man who “learned” from his sufferings. See more discussion in the article.