The Blessedness of Giving
Paul is now coming to the close of his instruction to the elders from Ephesus. He has constantly reminded them of his example while he was among them that they might follow the same pattern now in his absence.
He has warned them of the dangers that lie ahead and now he warns them finally of a danger that they must guard themselves against.
Paul now reminds them of his lack of greed as well as the emphasis that he constantly placed on giving to others.
This reminder of his behavior among them was intended to lead them to:
Forsake Greed (Vs. 33)
Forsake Greed (Vs. 33)
It was not uncommon for men like Paul to become wealthy from the proceeds they received from their followers but Paul was never motivated by a desire for temporal wealth.
Consider even in our present generation how many ministers have become very wealthy and are living lavish lifestyles. Take for example Joel Osteen whose net worth is reported to be between 40-60 million dollars and who lives in a 17,000 sq. ft. Mansion worth over 10 millions dollars. Consider Kenneth Copeland whose net worth is reported to be over 300 million dollars and who owns a private jet worth 20 millions dollars.
One cannot help but wonder if ministry is more about profit than it is about serving Christ for such men.
Paul was intent on being above reproach in such matters. He wanted there to be no question as to the motivation for his ministry and that it had nothing to do with personal gain.
Paul in fact had experienced times of abundance as well as times of great leanness as he served the Lord but he wrote to the Philippian church that he had learned to be content no matter what his state. Philippians 4:11-13- learned to abound and to be abased
Our service to the Lord should never be motivated by personal gain be it financial or otherwise. We do not serve Christ for what we can get out of it.
It was not as though Paul was against a minister being financially supported but he was vehemently against any minister whose motivation was personal gain.
If our ministry is motivated by the desire for temporal gains it cannot be pleasing to the Lord.
Matthew 6:1-8- Jesus warned of this desire for temporal gains when he spoke of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who sought glory and prestige for themselves. Mark 12:38-40
Let us be as Paul and strive to be above suspicion in this area. May no one ever question our motive or think us guilty of ministering simply for personal gain. We must heed the warning that Paul gave to young Timothy in I Timothy 6:10- love of money root of all evil.
Paul also reminded them of his labor among them so that he might lead them to also:
Embrace Labor (Vs. 34)
Embrace Labor (Vs. 34)
Paul was never above working to provide for his own needs. He did not expect the churches to take care of him when he was capable of taking care of himself.
If the Lord so requires it let us work to provide for our needs so that we might have the freedom to be involved in ministry at our own expense.
Move to Arkansas- self-paid missionary- worked full-time while ministering in the church. Even after going on staff ran a paper route for a year and a half so as to make sure that my family was well cared for. Preached often in NC for little or no pay while working full time
We must not come to the belief that we must be paid to minister. It is a joy if God grants us the opportunity to dedicate ourselves fully to ministry when our needs can be fully provided for but if not let us not cease to minister.
The true servant of Christ will do what is necessary to continue to serve Him. If that means working to provide then so be it.
Paul would sometimes accept gifts from those he had ministered to but he was also willing to work when necessary to provide not only for himself but also for those who traveled with him.
Paul worked not only to avoid suspicion but also to provide for the needs of those that he had asked to accompany him on his missionary journeys.
It is a sad reality that there are thousands of churches across America that have no pastor because they cannot afford to support one. It is tragic that there are so few men who are willing to labor in a bi-vocational capacity.
We ought to thank God for those who still embrace this mentality and who are willing to work if necessary to follow God’s call upon their life.
No one in ministry should be unwilling to serve in a bi-vocational capacity if the Lord so leads them.
If we are convinced of the call of God upon our life we ought to be willing to do whatever is necessary to follow God’s call.
Finally Paul encourages them to remember the words of Christ that it was more blessed to give than to receive in hopes of leading them to:
Focus on Giving (Vs. 35)
Focus on Giving (Vs. 35)
When we forsake greed and embrace labor, we are enabled to make giving our primary focus. Ministry is certainly not intended to be about what we can receive but rather what we have the opportunity to give.
We ought to have a sincere desire to support those who are unable to support themselves. This is one reason we give to missions. Missionaries are not allowed to work in a foreign country to provide for their family’s needs so we give of ourselves to support them as they labor for the Lord.
We ought to also seek to give to those within the local church who may be struggling to provide for themselves through no fault of their own.
Truly you will find that the Lord’s words are absolutely true as you give to benefit others and see the impact that your giving makes. Your financial giving to missions allows us to now send support each month to over 50 missionaries and their families.
This giving spirit is not just concerning finances. We ought to be willing to give of our time and energy even when we have no expectation of receiving anything in return.
You will find that the investment that you make into the lives of others from whom you may never receive anything in return can bring tremendous blessing as you see the impact that your investment has made.
Even when we do not necessarily see the results of our giving there is still the blessing of knowing that we have been obedient to the Lord and that He is pleased with our sacrifice.
We must always remember that the Christian life is not a life of selfish gain but rather a life of selfless sacrifice for the good of others!
Now Paul’s departure is at hand and in the last several verses of this chapter we see the care that the elders of Ephesus and the Apostle Paul had for one another.
What a beautiful picture of the abiding love they shared for each other. He leaves them with a final prayer recognizing that this may be the last opportunity he will have to see them face to face.
Undoubtedly the love that these elders had for Paul was at least in part because of his pattern of behavior among them which he has now commended to them as an example which they should now follow as they lead the ministry in Ephesus in his absence. His self-less sacrifice for them left a deep and lasting impact upon them.