Sermon Summary - The Joy and Freedom of Being a Giver - Acts 20:32-35
The Joy and Freedom of Being a Giver
Paul ends his speech to the Ephesian elders with his own personal example of being free from greed and covetousness. He commits these men to the grace of God and reminds them of the words of Jesus, who taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The reason why it’s more blessed to give than to receive is because giving releases us from the temptation of greed in our hearts which then conforms us to the image of Jesus. The action of giving is also a powerful weapon against idolatry, covetousness, and greed.
Paul commits the elders to the grace of God working in them through the word, which is able to build up and bring about their eternal inheritance. Paul uses the word sanctified, or set apart, to say that God is mercifully working and changing their hearts constantly. He then gives a specific example of the word of grace working in his own sinful life, greed and covetousness, reminding them of the work he did with his own hands. He has already mentioned and warned about wolves among them who will work for their own financial gain. In 1 Corinthians 9 and 1 Timothy 5, Paul argues how those who work in the teaching ministry should be supported financially for their work by the church. But there is a difference between being supported in preaching and preaching for the sake of becoming rich. And that is why one of the requirements of being an elder is being free from the love of money, or greed.
Greed is a sin that destroys and defiles a person, it is listed in the New Testament alongside sexual immorality, idolatry, and drunkenness. Paul knew many people would leave the faith because of their greed and warned believers of this sin, “for the love, of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Timothy 6:10). Paul also encouraged believers by speaking the words of Jesus himself “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is more fulfilling to give and help a fellow brother, by this we keep the gospel alive. The giving of money in the form of tithing is a good place to start and it’s an ongoing protection against greed in our hearts. Giving is not a matter of wealth, it’s a matter of principles and values, which are so good for our lives and should be taught to our children.
Givers are blessed because they are freed from the destructive sin in their giving, they are also blessed because they are being conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus. Paul tells the elders to remember, to commit to memory, these words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This saying is not found in any of the four gospels but the early church knew about it because of their oral traditions. This saying still falls in line with Jesus’ understanding of money and greed by telling us to store up treasures in heaven by investing in God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:19-20, Luke 12:15-20). Christmas demonstrates the great giver, the greatest gift, the eternal son of God becoming human to give his life as a sacrifice for the sins of his people.
None of us should give if we don’t want to, but if we call ourselves Christians and don’t want to, we should pray to the Lord for our hearts. Our love and giving should be genuine, just as Paul says to the Corinthians, "I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you in his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:8-9). No one ever gave so much like Jesus gave to us. Paul was convinced of the joy of giving and the danger of greed that he wrote to us “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be arrogant, nor set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they make take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Where our treasure is, is where our heart is, we should love and seek our Lord Jesus seeking to be blessed in joy and freedom by giving, because it is more blessed to give than to receive.