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Sadly, many pastors are better known for receiving rather than giving. There are those who are eloquent in their preaching, sound in their Bible knowledge, good in raising funds, and effective in their administration but not generous in their living and giving.
Intriguingly, generosity is one of the biblical qualifications for a man to become a shepherd of God’s church. Virtues such as hospitality and a lover of good are related to generosity (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8). Moreover, generosity is tangible evidence of someone not being a lover of money (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7). If you are a pastor, is this qualification evident in your life and ministry?
Pastors are well acquainted with the usage of the Scripture, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Pointing others to these words, they emphasize the need for giving. But do you know the context for this exhortation?
When Paul was in Miletus, he sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church (Acts 20:17). (In the New Testament, the terms elders, pastors, overseers and shepherds are used synonymously.) After the arrival of the pastors, he began to give several instructions to them (20:17ff). And at the climax of his instruction, Paul exhorted the ministers of God, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work, we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (20:35).
By his instruction and example, Paul taught the pastors of the church to be generous givers. He had to especially remind the ministers, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” for they are often on the receiving end. Regrettably, many modern pastors use this Scripture as a means to raise money from believers while neglecting to follow the teaching themselves. The words ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” were first addressed to shepherds of God’s church.
Therefore, dear ministers of God’s church, we ought to rise up to a sacrificial life by our generous giving. Then believers will learn the pleasure of giving to the Lord’s service by seeing (not just by hearing) the good acts of God’s servants. Before exhorting others to give, we have to first model ourselves in giving. We are called to be examples of every good act.
Let me conclude with a challenge to present-day ministers by turning our attention to the life of John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley’s simplicity and frugality enabled him to limit his living expenses to a very small sum so that he would have more money to give away.
One year, when [John Wesley’s] income was 30 pounds, he lived on 28 pounds and gave away 2 pounds. The next year he received 60 pounds, the year after that 90 pounds, and the year after that 120 pounds. And yet in each year he spent only 28 pounds on himself and gave all the rest to the needy. It is calculated that in his lifetime he gave away at least 30,000 pounds. On one occasion, when the Tax Collectors paid him a visit, it was found that four spoons were the only silver plate that he possessed.1
Oh, may we imitate the generous living of John Wesley! It is written, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). Dear pastor friend, how do the believers in our church consider the outcome of your way of life regarding generosity?