Posts Tagged ‘Acts 20:35’


It happened again.

Steve and I had just finished our meal in a local restaurant when the waitress stopped by to check on us. We’ll call her Sarah.

“How was your dinner?” she asked.

“My chicken was delicious” I enthused. And then she looked to Steve.

“Well, this could have been better,” and he indicated his plate where a third of his steak remained. “It was left on the grill a little too long,” he explained. The dark, dry cast of the meat provided the undeniable evidence.

Sarah’s smile morphed into furrowed concern. “Oh, I am so sorry,” she exclaimed. “We have a new guy training on the grill tonight. He clearly let that steak overcook. Shall I have the chef fix you another?”



“No,” Steve replied. “That’s okay; I had enough.”

“Well, if you’re sure…Thank you for being so nice about it. I just took back five steaks from one table. They were not happy.”

“As a pastor for forty years, I know how people can be sometimes, forgetting their manners when they feel wronged. But this isn’t your fault,” Steve asserted.

Sarah nodded. “I’ll get your check,” she announced and dashed off.

Upon her return, Steve handed Sarah her tip in cash.

Now those of you who know Steve may guess her reaction to what she received, because he’s always been a very generous tipper. It’s part of his mission to be God’s agent, blessing other people in the name of Jesus (Matthew 25:40).



But Sarah’s response was a surprise. She began to cry. We could tell Sarah wanted to say something but she couldn’t speak for a moment.

“You don’t know what this means to me,” she choked. “I know God brought you in here tonight. It’s my fifth anniversary today for being sober, but it’s been a difficult day—not much of a celebration.

“When you said you’d been a pastor, I felt like God was saying he knows what I’ve been through. He sees the progress I’ve made. And now this.” Sarah indicated the bills in her hand as the tears continued to flow.

Now my eyes started to fill. To think: God had used us at just the right time to honor this young woman for her faith and perseverance.

“Well, you have to know,” Steve continued, “as a pastor, and Nancy here, a teacher, we didn’t make a fortune during our working years. But God has blessed us over and over and we just want to bless others—like you.”

“Thank you so much,” Sarah enthused. “I will never forget this.”

Steve and I won’t forget that encounter either. Surely as we left the restaurant our faces glowed as much as Sarah’s with the supreme joy of affirming her.

And Jesus’ beatitude that Paul quoted was proved yet again: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).



In the last few years, scientific research has confirmed those words of Jesus. Now we know that generosity:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Lessens depression
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Contributes to longer life
  • Increases happiness, as the “feel-good” chemicals of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin are released.*

But that’s not all. When we give what we have, it may prove to be a treasure.

Our gift to Sarah returned a treasure to us of sublime satisfaction and euphoria—results far beyond what we expected. But Sarah’s gift of honesty and appreciation certainly blessed us beyond what she expected also.




“Give what you have.

To someone, it may be better

than you dare to think.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


* https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/


Art & photo credits:  http://www.unsplash.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com.



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(Reblogged from April 4, 2013)


Gift wrap 2


It was late afternoon when the doorbell rang.

Through the sheer curtain at the window I could see D., from down the street. She and I had recently met and were becoming good friends.

“Is everything okay?” I asked while ushering D. inside.

“Oh, yes. It’s just…I have a present for you,” she replied. Sure enough, D. was carrying a wrapped box. We sat on the living room couch.

It was not Christmastime, and not my birthday. Why was she giving me a gift?

“Open it,” she encouraged.

“But, D.,” I hesitated.

“Go on!”

Upon removing the paper and taking the lid off the box, I beheld a lovely navy blue Bible with gilded pages.

Now you need to know, D.’s husband and mine were in seminary at the time. Neither of our households had much money to spare. So this gift seemed over-the-top extravagant to me. Of course I could not accept it.

“D., this is absolutely beautiful, but…”

She stopped me. “I chose to buy this for you; I want you to have it. Besides, if you won’t receive it, you’ll steal my blessing!”

D. was referring, of course, to Acts 20:35: It is more blessed to give than receive.

I had never considered that interpretation, but she was right. In order for a giver to be blessed, there does need to be a receiver.

“Besides,” D. continued with a grin. “I already wrote inside the front cover. I can’t take it back. So there!”

D.’s words of that long-ago afternoon still play in my mind when I find myself balking at unexpected or overly generous gifts. Even favors can make me uncomfortable. But if I don’t graciously receive, I steal the blessing from the giver.

And what’s at the bottom of my reluctance? I think it’s a sense of unworthiness and pride. Now there’s a strange set of opposites!

D.’s gift made me feel unworthy. I wasn’t deserving of her sacrificial gift.

Yet pride was part of my reaction, too. I didn’t need her gift. I already had a perfectly good Bible. Yes, it was an old and worn King James version, but it had served me well and could certainly continue to do so.

What I began to understand that day is: receiving well is in itself a form of generosity.

When I graciously express heartfelt gratitude for a gift, and share my appreciation for the time, effort, and thoughtfulness of the giver, I make a positive contribution of affirmation into her heart.

After D. left that day, I remember tearfully reading her inscription, and fingering the gilded pages. I felt incredibly honored, loved, and appreciated by D.’s gift.

Now, if it’s more blessed to give than receive, I wonder what D. felt as she walked home that afternoon? I pray she, too, felt honored, loved, and appreciated, even though my gratitude seemed paltry.

But surely the greater blessing came as God loved, honored, and appreciated D. for her gift.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *     *

Heavenly Father, I thank you for D.’s example, still strong after all these years. May I never miss an opportunity to be a blessing to others, whether I am the giver or the receiver.

What lessons have you learned from the givers and receivers in your life? Tell us your story!

(Photo credit:  www.episcopalbookstore.com.)

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