July 2015

" . . . remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

To simply take this passage and comment that it is a good moral saying by which we should all try to live would be wrong. To take these words simply by themselves, as something Dr. Luke alone recorded for posterity would be to miss the point.

First, we must come to the realization that by nature, we are sinful and unclean. There is no goodness or worthiness in us. We must confess that we are poor miserable sinners who would by nature not give anything to anyone unless it benefitted us. This benefit may be self-adulation, public adoration, or the hope of receiving a better position or rewards in this life or the life hereafter. But whatever the case, these reasons are born of selfishness and sin. They are what Isaiah described as "filthy rags" in God's sight.

It should not surprise us, then, that the Holy Spirit inspired these words to be recorded by Dr. Luke at the end of a persuasive dissertation by St. Paul of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it should not surprise us that the words which immediately follow this text are, "When he [Paul] had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed" (Acts 20:36). Dr. Martin Franzmann best captures what is underlying these recorded words of Jesus when he refers to this passage of Scripture as "the power of the Word of the Lord made perfect in weakness."

True Christian love, the love that emulates Christ, the all-giving Servant, does not come by our own reason or strength, for we as sinners are weak and cannot do any good work. True Christian love was born of the cross of Jesus Christ and is worked in us by the power of the Word and Sacrament. The perfect power of God's Word works in our weakness. By the power of the Gospel we show true Christian love, a love that does not chase selfishly after that which is good to enjoy. Rather, it seeks to provide for those in need with no expectation of anything in return in this life or of special considerations in the next.

Jesus is the model. He continues to give His unselfish devotion and service to all, even though many reject Him. St. Paul, by the power of the Gospel, lived and preached the model of the suffering servant which is ours to live and preach as well. It is only in the role of the servant, a role of unquestioned devotion and service to the glory of God and for the benefit of man, that our faith will find its proper expression and application.

Yes, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," for in Christ, to give is to be like Christ.

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