Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

Is it more blessed to give? 3 Oct 10

Is it more blessed to give?

Did you work out who said this? It was Jesus, but the quotation is not found in the gospels. It is quoted by Paul, but not in any of his letters. It occurs in a very interesting place.

Paul was on his way back to Jerusalem from Greece and had stopped over at Miletus in order to meet briefly with the elders of the church at Ephesus. Luke tells the story in Acts 20.17-38. Paul reminds the elders of the church how he had declared the whole purpose of God to them, warning, proclaiming, teaching – for three years.

And he did not do it in order to get something back. He told them the gospel free of charge. For Paul this meant that he refused the reciprocal side of gift-giving. He did not want them to think he was in it for the money, like many itinerant teachers and philosophers of his day.


His behaviour was meant as an example to them, especially so that they would be able to support the weak – who presumably were unable to provide any support for the ministry.

“User pays” is a common and often helpful idea in our society. But sometimes the ministry of the gospel needs to be free of charge. It always needs to be free of the intention to make money out of it or to profit the preacher or enrich the organisation.

But why is it more blessed to give? Perhaps it is like Shakespeare said about mercy, “It is an attribute to God himself”.  Giving goes to the heart of who God is and those who give show themselves like God in this respect.

Paul was concerned not just to make the gospel “free of charge” (1 Cor 9.18), but to make the gospel known to all, by whatever means. He would let nothing stand in the way of others hearing the gospel, not matters of cost, nor matters of culture (he adapted to make the gospel accessible to people of different backgrounds), nor matters that inconvenienced him.

He thought it was a great blessing to give the knowledge of the gospel to everyone who would hear it.


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