In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Of all the important messages Paul could share with the elders of Ephesus, these are the final ones he spoke to them face to face, knowing they would never see each other again. He tells them, “we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus.” This made me wonder, what would I say to a group of people I loved and would never see again? “Take care of yourself?” “God bless you?” “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later?” Paul’s choice words are to point to the example he has set with his own life, laboring, and working to support not only himself but also the weak. Then Paul quotes Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” So what does it mean to be “more blessed”? Will we be just a little bit more blessed, or way more blessed than if we only received? As humans, don’t we tend to want to weigh out the pros and cons before taking action? Or make some calculations as to what’s in it for me?
What are the blessings you currently desire in your life? I would feel more blessed right now if only my house would stay clean, and my preschooler would eat a vegetable. What do you want? A nicer home in a better school district? Teenagers, that look up from their devices when you’re talking to them? A cushy nest egg when it comes time for retirement? Perhaps we’re selling ourselves too short when we limit our understanding of what blessings are. God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9), and we don’t know how, or with what, or with whom, He’s going to bless us, but I think maybe it’s going to be “far more [abundant] than all…we [can] ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20).
About 38 years after Paul’s final encounter with the Ephesian elders, John is given a vision about their church. The church in Ephesus is known by God to work hard, to endure patiently, to detest evil, and not grow weary. However, they are chastised for having abandoned the love they had at first. They are encouraged to remember, repent, and do the works they did at first (Rev. 2:1-7). In the 38 years between Paul tearfully giving his final encouragement to them, and John being given this revelation about them, the church in Ephesus completely missed out on the point of all the work and endurance.
I don’t know what our church will look like in 38 years. But what role can we each play today to make sure we don’t abandon the reason for this work? What short-term sacrifices can we make for the sake of long-term gain? Paul said, “We must help the weak.” What if we become eager to tend to the needs of those who are weak in body, weak in faith, feeling too weak to get up out of bed in the morning? People in our own neighborhoods, quietly dealing with their brokenness and darkness alone? Can we take the charge of Paul and together remember the words of Jesus and be challenged to give? To be “more blessed” as we let His blessings abound and overflow? Could we give more than our desire to receive? Then maybe the blessings of God would rain down and overflow not only on the giver but on our whole community.
- What are you willing to give now so that you and/or our church community can be “more blessed” when you are ____ years old?
Today’s devotional was prayed over and prepared by Christine Allen, Assistant Worship Director