Text: Acts 20:17–38
Topic(s): Christian Example, Giving, Being Blessed, God’s Gift
Big Idea of the Message: The principle of a blessed life is giving rather than receiving.
Application Point: Receiving God’s blessing spiritually is not just a passive experience, but something we can actively enter into when we give.
In his farewell to the Ephesians elders, Paul uses himself as an example of a generous life.
He cites how he lived with them the entire time (v. 18)—withstanding trials that could have sent many away while staying true to his mission of sharing the gospel (vv. 19–20, 34); giving himself to them through exhortation and tears (v. 31); and supplying his personal needs through his own labor (v. 34).
The key to Paul’s generous life is seen in verse 24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me.” In other words, “I am willing to sacrifice it if it be necessary. This was the spirit of the Saviour, and of all the early Christians.
Duty is of more importance than life; and when either duty or life is to be sacrificed, life is to be cheerfully surrendered” (Albert Barnes, James G. Murphy, F. C. Cook, E. B. Pusey, H. C. Leupold, and Robert Frew, Barnes’ Notes [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1996], Acts 20:24).
Putting your life second to another: “When Air Florida Flight 90 smashed into a frozen lake in the middle of a snowstorm, all but six passengers were killed.
Some 20 minutes later, a helicopter arrived to rescue the survivors. After getting one man to safety, the helicopter threw a life-ring to Arland Williams … who immediately gave it to the passenger next to him. When the helicopter came back for a third time, he did the same thing again. And again. When the helicopter came back a final time, Arland was dead. He’d used his last ounce of strength to save a complete stranger” (Karl Smallwood, “The Ten Most Inspiring Self-Sacrifices,” Listverse, January 15, 2013, https://listverse.com/2013/01/15/the-top-10-most-inspiring-self-sacrifices/).
Paul plainly speaks that he coveted no one’s goods. Another key to a generous life is to not covet the things of the world.
To covet “means a consuming and controlling desire for what others have and for more of what we ourselves already have. ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is the last of the Ten Commandments, but if we do covet, we will end up breaking all the other nine!
Those who covet will steal, lie, and murder to get what they want, and even dishonor their own parents. Covetousness is idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5)” (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996], 1:488).
The Beatitudes are readily known from Matthew 5:3–12; here we see another added to the list, though with a little different twist.
The initial list from the Sermon on the Mount speaks to the masses in broad principle; however, Acts 20:35 uses the wording “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
This phrasing is a focused request to act, an imperative verb. “It is more blessed to give” versus “Blessed are you” reiterates the need to make a conscious effort to give.
A generous life does not come about by happenstance; it is conscious choice.
There is physical evidence that supports the benefit of a generous life. “Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness.
Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. E
xperiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable.
Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful” (Jenny Santi, “The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others,” Time, August 4, 2017, http://time.com/collection-post/4070299/secret-to-happiness/).