Paul’s last meeting with the elders of the Ephesian church was filled with tears because he knew he would no longer see their faces again in this earthly life (Acts 20:25, 37-38). In his farewell to these men Paul said, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Act 20:33-35)
After Paul used his own life as an example of sacrificing for others, he then pointed these shepherds to the words of the chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), Jesus Christ, who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Christ’s selfless giving influenced Paul, who in turn influenced these elders, who in turn would influence the entire congregation of the Lord’s church in Ephesus by their example (1 Peter 5:3).
Today we can influence one another by giving as Jesus commands us. This saying of Jesus, quoted by Paul, is never found in the Gospel accounts, but examples of its practice are on every page where our Lord appears. Jesus laid down His life for us who are His sheep (John 10:15). He asks us to follow in His example of giving our time, talents, possessions, etc. to others. J. W. McGarvey wrote regarding Jesus as our shepherd:
He says of the shepherd “When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him.” (John 10:4.) There is no driving, but constant leading. A Judean shepherd going before his flock and calling them with a voice which they know and always follow, is an inimitably beautiful picture of the chief Shepherd himself, and of all under shepherds, leading their flocks toward the gates of heaven. That voice never directed to a path which the shepherd himself did not tread; and even if it did the sheep would take no heed to it but ever follow the footsteps of the shepherd.
Though Paul was an example to congregations, such as Ephesus, in giving his time, energy, talents, and possessions to the furtherance of the church, certain congregations were also examples to him in giving. The Philippian church was one such congregation. To them Paul wrote, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” (Phil. 4:15-17). Their generosity made them rich in bearing fruit for God and had a profound influence on Paul. Though rich toward God, Philippi was not a wealthy congregation in regard to physical means, but it still gave to Paul. Philippi was in the region of Macedonia, of whom Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 8:1-2, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” Even Paul, a great leader in the church, learned from the example of those who were willing to help him preach the Gospel.
All of us can learn more about the blessedness of giving to others. When we are selfless, we become more like Jesus Christ and influence others to be more like Him as well.
-by Mark Day
-McGarvey, J.W. A Treatise on the Eldership. 1870. Murfreesboro, TN: Dehoff Publications, 1982.