According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Where does the etymology of the phrase, "It Is More Blessed to Give than to Receive" come from?

 
 
Recently I heard the phrase "it is more blessed to give than to receive" and got to wondering where its etymology might have come from. Perhaps not from the Jewish Gospels, as in Matthew 10.8b, when Jesus quoted a popular Jewish phrase,
 
5 "These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,[c] cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics[d] or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food."
 
But more perhaps from Acts 20.35 (context vv.34-36), when Paul said,
 
"34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35In 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.'36And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all."
 
Earlier, in verse 32, Paul had said,
 
"And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified..."
 
as he spoke about his time of ministry having come to a close amongst his disciples. How he had labored night and day for their edification and sanctification. And that with his very hands he served them, providing the blessings of God's word to their hearts and minds.
 
So I found it curious that Paul would connect the grace of God with the phrase of Jesus of being a blessing to others (v. 32 to v. 35) by translating from its Jewish counterpart which flatly stated "freely give what you freely received" (sic, Matthew 10.8b). From Paul's Jewish heritage he was going through the process of re-evaluating Christ's teachings in light of what he  had previously understood through his Torah upbringing as seen here by his revelatory assessment pertaining to God's grace and blessings. He was in the process of threading the Christian themes of the Gospels backwards into his own Jewish heritage and teachings about God, and beginning to conclude their contemporary relevance and significance to the church of his day. Especially in the light of God's revelation through Jesus, as not only the Son of God come to dwell amongst men. But who was Himself the very God of the Godhead. The Incarnated Triune God. Israel's long-awaited Messiah come to live and minister grace within the temples of His dwelling built within His wondrous creation brought alive by His life, death and resurrection over sin and death.

Jesus' words were important to Paul. And they were important to evaluate against all of God's past revelation to Israel received over many, many centuries, if not millenia, from Abraham unto Paul's current milieu of first century Judaism. It is not hard to visualize Paul working out a basic hermeneutical structure of New Covenant theology as he progressed through the various ministry environments he experienced during his missionary journeys of evangelism and church planting. And when seated within the Roman cells of imprisonment to begin working through the many fractured paths of Judaistic thought-and-theology into a more enlightened view of God's New Testament revelation presented to not only himself, but to his fellow apostles (Christ's disciples) received at the hands of Jesus to by His faithful followers. Out of which we now have Paul's letters written to the churches of Asia Minor and Rome, garnered first by experience, and secondly through the interpretive rumination of prayerful thought and balanced judgment, against Paul's previous background of systematic, rigorous, Jewish training. (Paul once noted that he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, when contesting an interpretation of Scriptural revelation being rejected by fellow would-be revelatories. Interpreting and acting upon God's Word aright was important to him).

And not only did this phrase of blessing mean something in Paul's day, but it has come to mean something to us in our day as well, as we continue to translate, or import, God's revelation through Jesus into the digest of worldly phrases heard in our ears from within today's cultures and societies vying for moral, religious, or philosophical ascendancy. But by filling our ears, our minds, and our hearts, with the illumined richness of God's Word, the Bible, as revealed to us through Jesus, we might then be better able to speak to each other of God's grace and truth. By re-assessing (or re-positioning) such popular phrases as, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" we, as Christians, may communicate it's higher revelatory significance of referring to God's empowerment of His word of grace into our meager lives lived so gracelessly. So self-centered. So anxious and sparse.
 
And by this phrase one might gather that it had become one of those basic tenets of Judaism mostly likely conscripted from its more common, worldly origins, then as it later became by Paul through impassioned speeches to Jewish-Hellenistic congregations scattered amongst the pages of the book of Acts as he hastened to Jerusalem to begin his fourth and final journey for the gospel of Jesus unto Rome itself. Paul's desire to go to Rome saddened the churches of Asia Minor (20.38f) but also stiffened their resolve to provide for their destitute Jewish brethren dwelling in-and-around Jerusalem they had not met but knew to be suffering for faithfully following Jesus. So that in the midst of famine in Israel, the Apostle Paul's congregants wished to provide help through the provisioning of bread, money, and so forth, to the churches of Jerusalem, as he, Paul, travelled amongst the churches of Asia Minor before returning to Jerusalem, and ultimately to his final journey as a Roman prisoner to tell of the good news of Jesus to the emperor of Rome himself.
 
And in this way Paul spoke to what his Lord and Savior had provided to him - specifically that through the gospel of Jesus he freely received God's grace as a religiously loyal Jewish Pharisee trained in the Torah - and was to freely give back God's grace to those who knew not Jesus.... And in hearty response, those Christian followers of the Messiah Christ took to their heart to give of themselves - and not only to one another - but to their Christian brothers and sisters suffering in foreign lands for their faith in Christ.

And in this way have I likewise labored here at Relevancy22 with many contemporaries to provide fresh insights into God's living Word through recitation of articles and posts reflecting popular discussions, songs, theologies, or ideas, found in today's mainstreams of thought and rhetoric. To tell of the Scripture's richness once thought lost in the arguments of the church between one interpretive dogma or the other; to enliven today's theologies with a recharged hermeneutic that works past many of Evangelicalism's dead-ends to reclaim a Jesus-nation warm-and-alive with the breath-and-power of the Spirit. To say plainly what many would wish to cover up. And to say it again-and-again-again until it sinks in, using a simple literary nuance here, or a shaded overtone there, that might overcome our Christian differences and religious impasses to discover a more meaningful Bible; a richer theological landscape; and a broader tapestry of ministry and livelihood than once thought possible.

Nor did I think I would become so overwhelmed by so large a burden so late in life. But through God's spirit, and by the grace He has given to me, I have collected and written this past year-and-a-half of God's great goodness as it proceeds unstoppable through this world we live within. Whether through the church itself. Or in spite of itself. Or even at the hands of those burdened souls for human rights and suffrage. Or even through the pursuits of common scientific discoveries and human organizational efforts. God is actively involved in this world of ours and it is only we ourselves who would try to contain the will of our Divine Creator, the Lover of our Souls, our Redeemer and Savior. To unwittingly, or ignorantly, prevent His word of grace from being as relevant today as it ever was in Christ's day. It is but for us to hear. And to hear God's Word aright. And thus, have I chosen to re-orient our message of the Gospel as an emerging Gospel dispelled of the church's many pet dogmas and religious zeals. To dare to enter in upon holy ground and there stand speaking God's Word afresh as it should be spoken unaltered and pure without so many of our words and actions hindering the Spirit's movement.

And with that, I leave with you a follow-up article speaking to the further development of the Christian phrase of blessing written several years ago during one Christmas season from a Canadian perspective. It doesn't complete the Jewish etymology of this phrase, but it may help provide an important "regal" perspective to our response by God's actions to us - both in creative deed and redemptive act. To this may I add a short prayer,

As God gives strength,
Be blessed and be blessings,
Each and every day,
To every man or beast,
In every realm or kingdom,
To the glory of God,
Unto the richness of
His Rule and Reign.

Give without receiving,
Receive with thanksgiving,
In all things give grace,
As is the will of God,
Who Himself is grace.

May God's peace be our inheritance,
May charity be our livelihood,
May the Lord Jesus Christ be uplifted,
Both now and always.

- R.E. Slater
October 11, 2012 



Acts 20
English Standard Version (ESV)

Paul in Macedonia and Greece

20 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews[a] as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
 
Eutychus Raised from the Dead
 
7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.
 
13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and[b] the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
 
Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders
 
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:
 
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[c] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,[d] which he obtained with his own blood.[e] 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 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.’
 
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
It's more blessed to give than receive
http://www.lucknowsentinel.com/2008/12/17/its-more-blessed-to-give-than-receive

By Pastor Perry Chuipka

As we approach this advent and Christmas season this verse keeps coming into my mind. Many of us grew up hearing that "It is more blessed to give than to receive." But what does this word "bless" really mean.
 
In the Bible, the origin of the concept of "blessing" is a Hebrew word (baw-rahk'), meaning "to kneel" and was used one way or another, hundreds of times to convey the meaning of respect or adoration. You would kneel before a king in respect or to offer thanks for something. Of course, you would kneel to God in adoration, praise, thanksgiving and supplication. The Septuagint (LXX) translators choose the Greek (eulogeitos) to represent (baw-rahk') (more than 400 times). So, among Greek speaking Jews, this was a common word for praise, thanksgiving, respect, etc. Latin writers used the verb form (benedicere) to translate the Greek, preferring to offer the literal sense of the Greek. I think they wanted a strictly English word so they could get away from the Catholic Latin expressions.
 
The word "bless" was not a literal translation, but it had religious overtones and they used it even though it had come from a heathen source. So, there was a long and varied series of associations - Jewish, heathen, Christian - to blend in the English use of the word "bless". Therefore, "blessing" is a word which has a position in Christian vocabulary by reason of long-standing usage. But it does not directly translate (eulogeitos)! BUT - there is a modern version which does have a direct translation, and it is to this version that I pay honour. The version is the Spanish. In Ephesians 1:3 in the Spanish, the word (bendito) is the part participle of the verb (bendecir). It means, literally, "to say good things or good words."
 
So let me go back to my verse, "It is more blessed to give than receive." It is not that giving is more important than receiving. That is not what this verse means. Instead it points out that blessings start from someone giving good things or good words. I couldn't help but think back to the Genesis stories of creation where God created his blessings for this world by first giving good things or good words.
 
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day" and the darkness he called "night". and there was evening, and there was morning-the first day."
 
Now, just think for a moment about Jesus' ministry. He showed us the power of the word [...and I might add, our actions! - res] to bring new life to others through the many good things that he said and did. And so it is with us, as we enter this advent and Christmas season. Our words and our actions are important because they help bring about God's blessing to others. We can give blessings to others this Christmas and it starts with us being thankful for all the good things that God has given us to share with others.
 
My family and I are very thankful for the people here in Lucknow. We arrived in Wingham near the end of April of this year coming from Sudbury in Northern Ontario. Not long after we arrived here, Sara, the reporter from the Sentinel came to our home to interview my wife and I. Not long after that, I attended the regular men's Wednesday morning gathering time at Finlayson's and I was greeted with smiles and a few jokes that I cannot repeat here. The people have been great and very welcoming to us. My family and I do feel blessed. We are blessed with good people who are with us on our common journey of searching for the truth in our lives. My family and I wish you and your loved ones a very blessed Christmas season filled with many good moments with family and friends and a New Year echoing with "good words and good things".
 
 
 

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