As Paul concludes an address to the elders at the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:32-35), he quotes Jesus, reminding them that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” In making the remark, he points out how hard he had worked to supply not only his own needs, but the needs of those around him. He was shining a light on himself as an example of what it means to embody the truth of Jesus’s’ quote. Paul’s embodiment was service to others. Paul had worked hard to supply his own needs so that others would not have to. He served others with his own hard work so that they could benefit from his service. One reason that it is better to give than to receive is found in 2 Corinthians 9:11-13. There, Paul argues that our service to others causes people to be thankful to God and to give him glory! Your service glorifies God, benefits your community, causes thankfulness, and then causes others to glorify God! Your service has exponential potential!
In complete contrast to the world’s pecking order, service is fundamental to the Christian hierarchy. Where the world tells us that the greatest among us have servants, Jesus tells us that the greatest among us are servants (Matthew 23:11). But consider an even more profound statement from the mouth of our Lord. In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus plainly sets himself up as the example for Christians to follow as they pursue that hierarchy. If a person wishes to be great, he must serve as Jesus served, and be willing to give his life as a ransom for many. In fact, the very act of service is akin to giving up a portion of one’s life for someone else. Service, then, is both a sacrifice, and a selflessness. The more you serve in some appropriate capacity, the more you become like Jesus.
So what does service look like? It looks like someone committing themselves to an underdog (Luke 10:25-37). It looks like clothing the naked, visiting the sick, or attending to someone in prison (Matthew 25:36). It looks like welcoming a stranger, feeding the hungry, or giving drink to the thirsty (Matthew 25:35). It means discipling others in what you know about Jesus (Titus 2:2-8). Serving is following in the footsteps of Jesus, and ministering to the needs of people who know him, and loving the people who don’t yet know him.
In what ways are you an embodiment of Christ’s ideal that it is better to give than to receive?