“In all this I [Paul] have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” -Acts 20:35
At the Episcopal church my family attended when I was growing up, Father Walter Hurley always commenced the weekly collection by saying, “Remember words of Our Lord, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
It still strikes me as a great way to announce the passing of the offering plates, but when you look at the Scripture Father Hurley was referencing, you see Paul’s meaning is quite nuanced.
And Paul’s purpose can teach us a lot, we who are inundated every December with ads and entreaties to spend, spend, spend our money buying gifts.
Paul quoted Jesus in the context of supporting the weak, not simply giving in general. Paul does not specify the type of weak person we are to support in our giving, but the New Testament repeatedly defines our Christian obligation toward the weak in health, spirit, power, status and money.
It is true that there is something noble and sacrificial in every act of giving, but the principle is especially true when we give to the weak because they are not in a power to offer anything in return.
Is it blessed when we give an iPod to our teenage daughter, an X-Box system to our son or a new cordless drill to our Uncle Ed? Perhaps. But we usually give to our loved ones to fulfill their wants, not their needs. And they are usually in a position to give us something in return — a gift, or “payment” in gratitude, love, affection or companionship.
Given Paul’s insight, how much more blessed would we be to spend the same money and give a $100 supermarket gift card to a hungry family, to drop a dozen new toys in the local “Toys for Tots” bin, or to arrange with Heifer International to buy a pig for a family in the developing world?
This Christmas, instead of spending a lot of money on gifts for people who are already relatively well housed, well fed and well clothed, why not look for gifts for the weakest of God’s people. You may learn what Paul, Father Hurley and Jesus all agree upon: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Copyright (c) 2011, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
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