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by Jacob Ninan

In his farewell message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul reminded them about how he had worked among them, giving himself for them by toiling night and day and from house to house, not holding back anything which was profitable for them (Acts 20:18-35). He said that in this way he had demonstrated the principle that the Lord Jesus had set forth that it was more blessed to give than to receive (v.36). This verse can be taken to mean just giving money or some other form of material help. But in that case, those who are wealthy would have an advantage over those who are poor, in obeying that verse. But as we seek to understand the spirit behind those words of our Lord, we find that everyone, both rich and poor, has the opportunity to partake of the spirit of giving and thus to be blessed.

In Lk.12:33, Jesus told His disciples to sell their possessions and give to charity. Jesus asked the rich young ruler to do this literally, but He did not ask Zaccheus to sell all, because He saw that Zaccheus already possessed the spirit of giving (Lk.18:22;19:1-10). The spirit of giving will enable us even to suffer loss for the sake of helping others.

Our most valuable possession is our self-life, and all of us have equal opportunity to give abundantly from this wealth. Jesus said, "Give that which is within as charity" (Lk.11:41). To deny ourselves and to lay down our self-life for others is painful for the flesh; and it truly requires great love and a spirit of giving in order to be able to do it (Jn.15:13;Php.2:3-5).

In 1Co.9:4-18, Paul writes about how he preached the gospel, giving up his legitimate rights. He remained single in order to be free, so that he could fulfil his work as an apostle without any distractions (1Co.7:32-35). He denied himself his right to receive financial support from those he served so as to make the gospel available to everyone without charge, freely. He did this in order that he might thereby expose false prophets who preached for the sake of their own gain (2Co.11:9-12). Paul certainly experienced the blessing that comes on those who seek to give rather than receive, to serve rather than to be served. Epaphroditus, Paul's fellow-soldier had also caught the same spirit (Php.2:25-27). He had a different attitude in his sickness from those who like to be fussed about and sympathised with, when they are sick or in some trial. Even though he had nearly died from his sickness, what distressed him was the fact that others had heard about his sickness and were concerned about him. He had certainly learned to consider others mor important than himself (Php.2:3).

The opposition to this spirit comes from our flesh, where self-love, self-centredness, and selfishness rule. As natural men, we would rather receive than give. Our lives revolve around 'I, me and mine'. The flesh resists any desire to give, which will cause it some inconvenience or pain. A wealthy man may find it easier to give his money rather than lay down his self-life.

When suffering unjustly, for example, if we lay down our rights and conduct ourselves in meekness, we will then have something valuable to contribute towards the building up of the body of Christ. But the one who desires only to receive will find that he has nothing to contribute.

The more we learn to give in this manner, the greater will be our own progress in godliness (2Co.9:6-8;Pr.11:26;22:9). On the contrary, the one who sows sparingly, who is only bothered about himself and his family, his own likes and dislikes, will find that he reaps a very poor harvest. May we all be gripped powerfully by this spirit of giving.

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