Summary: Most today focus more on their personal desires than the needs of others. We are urged to gain all we can and put much of that away in reserve. Society teaches the pathway to success is through gain. The Bible teaches we must give if we are to receive.
Giving is Receiving
There can be no doubt that we live in a selfish and inward focused world. The majority today have little concern for the needs of others, and few are willing to make any sacrifices to benefit someone else. Dr. Adrian Rogers described the mentality of many today. “They get all they can and can all they get.”
As we continue to discuss some of the paradoxes in Christian life, I was reminded that one must be willing to give in order to receive. We must be willing to turn loose of particular aspects of life and material gain in order to grow in our faith and receive the greater spiritual blessings. Jim Elliot was a missionary to Ecuador. He is quoted as saying, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” His quote is especially powerful when we consider that Jim was murdered by the natives he sought to reach with the Gospel. He completely gave what he could not keep but gained something he could not lose – eternal life in Christ.
Our text comes from an important and emotional time in the life of Paul. He had gathered the elders of Ephesus, desiring to offer final instructions prior to his departure. Ephesus was dear to his heart, and Paul knew he would likely never see them again. There is much he could have shared, and yet he chose to offer these parting words. As we consider the instructions of Paul, I want to think on the paradox: Giving is Receiving.
I. The Practice of Giving (35a) – I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak. As Paul prepared to depart Ephesus, he spoke to them regarding the practice of giving. He knew such activity was an important aspect of their Christian lives and ministry. Notice:
A. The Example – I have shewed you all things. Paul was not one who failed to practice what he preached. He put forth much effort in modeling the Christian life before the church. He didn’t want to be guilty of only proclaiming what was expected; he was committed to living out the principles of the faith. Giving for the good of others was no exception. Paul reminded them that he had showed them all things regarding their walk with the Lord. He had been willing to give sacrificially for the good of others and the benefit of the church. We know that Paul was what we now call a bi-vocational pastor. He worked as a tent maker in order to provide his living and was willing to give of his blessings to help others.
As we think of giving for the good of others, Paul is one in a long list of those who sacrificed in order to be a blessing to those in need. There is no greater example of sacrificial giving than that of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We will consider His great sacrifice in a moment, but we have been left a legacy of giving. We will never be all the Lord desires of us if we are unwilling to give of our blessings in order to benefit someone else. Clearly this involves much more than monetary giving, but we cannot exclude monetary gifts. Paul worked and gave for the benefit of the church. It is a blessing to be able to give a tithe and offering unto the Lord in order to help finance the ministries of the church and ensure the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world. It is an old cliché and yet it remains true – you cannot out give God!
B. The Expense (35a) – I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak. Paul did not refer to a gift of little consequence. He honestly spoke of giving until it hurts. He was not instructing the church at Ephesus to give of their leftovers, but actually be willing to make a genuine sacrifice for the good of the church and others. The word laboring in the text has the idea of “laboring to the point of exhaustion and fatigue, being worn out.” Surely these words carried great weight coming from Paul. He had given his life in ministry to Christ, sacrificially serving the church. He was always willing to go the extra mile in an attempt to benefit others and share the Gospel. He was not asking them to do anything he had been unwilling to do himself.
This is quite convicting when we pause to consider the enormity of Paul’s words. Most of us are willing to give of our excess, but few are willing to give until it hurts. We are willing to serve the church and others as long as it’s convenient and fits our schedule. How many are willing to labor for the Lord to benefit others until we are exhausted with fatigue? Remember the words of Jim Elliot - He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.