The Blessing

"It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35

One memorable adventure of being on Dr. W. Fred Swank's staff was being his driver for a trip to First Baptist Church of Marble Falls, Texas in October of 1975. He was the keynote speaker for an Associational Evangelism Conference. The place was packed with preachers from all over the Hill Country. Bro. Fred, as they called him, was brought in to fire them up about evangelism, and to return to their churches with a renewed zeal to keep the main thing, the main thing. No one could do it better.

The whole trip was a snapshot of Texas Baptist life, back in the day. The room was packed, the preaching was fiery, and the music was a bit eclectic. Along with the choirs, soloists, and gospel quartets, the "special music" was a guy with a saw.

It was incredibly funny to me, when he walked out with his musical instrument, pulled out a chair, and sat down with the saw in his lap. I laughed. I remember Bro. Fred's words, "Shut up, NUTHIN'." Apparently my upbringing in New York had left me unfamiliar with the sacred harp. To this day, I can hardly listen to "Amazing Grace" without a smile on my face, and a trip down memory lane to Marble Falls. But I digress.

One of the huge responsibilities of any Baptist meeting is the "taking of the offering." This is not a a benign offertory prayer offered in some pious ministerial tone. It is a a heart attack serious attempt to get blood out of a turnip.

In this case, these country preachers had left town with a ten dollar bill and the ten commandments, and didn't intend to break either one. For a man to "take the offering" he had to have a unique skill set. This is best described as the capacity to write poetry while wrestling with alligators. It begins with knowing the audience and ends with transforming them from receivers to givers. It is no less of a miracle than turning water into wine, and in Baptist life, the man who cold do it was in great demand, and highly respected.

When it came time for the offering, a gregarious, red-headed preacher came up to the podium and said something I have never forgotten. "You shovel out, and God shovels in. Brothers, God's shovel is bigger than yours. Give like you believe, He will never be in your debt."

That one statement was worth the price of the ticket. I was a seminary student, working a full time job for part time pay, and I reached for my wallet and almost threw it on the platform. I gave all I had in it, and was glad to do it. I'm telling you, giving is not a matter of missing out on what you gave, but living on what God pours through you.

Note to self: When holding onto the money in your wallet becomes a way of life, and you lose the joy of the ten commandments, remember the words of Jesus. They are often referred to as the 11th Commandment. Take them to heart.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive. v. 35

For almost 40 years, I have tested the truth of that old boy's statement in Marble Falls. God does shovel in, and His shovel is bigger than mine. Any time I begin to believe I have reached the point where I have started out-giving God, He always has a way of restoring my perspective. I give by the ounce, but He shovels in by the pound.

I have had the privilege of knowing and serving God's people my whole life. Every thing I have, and hold is a result of the generosity of God's people. What I have is a result of God's love being passed from Him to them, and then on to me. Being a minister of The Gospel is a life of faith in God's capacity to move people to be conduits of His love, not just recipients of it.

Giving people are loving people. Selfish people are never satisfied with what they have, but hold onto it anyway. Paul set an example before the elders of the early church, and held them accountable to do the same with the people entrusted to their care. Giving is the sign of the life-giving Presence of the Risen Christ being released through believers, by the Person of His Holy Spirit.

"When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all." v. 36

This may be the key. Giving and praying are two sides of the same coin. Prayerless people are prideful people. Prayerful people are humble people. Prideful people hold on to what they have because they believe they have earned it or they deserve it. They are wrong on both counts.

Humble people let go of what they have been given by God, because they know it ALL belongs to Him. Prayer loosens one's grip on things that the world values. Prayer increases one's net worth, by investing in what money can't buy and death can't take away. The Blessing is discovered when we...TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!