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Word to the Leaders

Great leaders are great givers.
– said John Maxwell

Living in India, I always used to wonder by looking at palm readers and soothsayers. I heard them emphatically telling people about their future prosperity and I thought, “When they tell others about prosperity, why they themselves are not prosperous?”

Keeping this aside, when I see some leaders motivating believers to give so that they would become prosperous, I cannot help but ask, “When believers can give and prosper why can’t leaders also give and see prosperity? Why do they want to prosper by taking from others rather than by giving to them?” Doesn’t the principle, “Give and it shall be given to you and blessed are those who give than who receive” primarily apply to leaders?

We come to know through the Holy Scriptures that one of the primary qualifications of a leader is to be hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). However, can we imagine hospitality without being generous? Reflecting on the life and ministry of Paul—an apostle of Christ and a laborer in Christ’s service—we notice that many times he worked with his own hands and was generous with his earnings. He himself acknowledged:

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 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.' (Acts 20:34-35)

We are well acquainted with this Scripture, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” especially in our preaching to others. But let’s look into the context and consider to whom it was actually exhorted.

When Paul was in Miletus, he sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church (Acts 20:17). Now in the New Testament, the terms - elders, pastors, overseers and shepherds - were used synonymously. Eminent theologian Wayne Grudem, in his classic Systematic Theology, notes, “Elders are also called “pastors” or “bishops” or “overseers” in the New Testament.”[1] So, after the arrival of the pastors, Paul began to give various instructions to them (20:17ff). At the climax of his instructions, Paul exhorted the leaders, “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). Later, he knelt with all of them, prayed and departed (20:36-38).

By instruction and example, Paul taught the leaders of the church to be generous givers. He had to especially remind them, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” as they probably are the ones who will be receiving more from others. Sad to say, these days, this Scripture is often used as a means to raise money from the believers while neglecting to follow it themselves, for it was first exhorted to the church leaders. Isn't it obvious that this Scripture primarily apply to the leaders and then to the believers of Christ Jesus?

It is regretful to acknowledge that, generally, leaders are well known for receiving than for giving. There are those who are known for their eloquent preaching, sound knowledge, great talents, good fund raising and skillful administration but not for generous living. Before exhorting others to give, shouldn’t leaders first model themselves in giving? Are they not called to be examples of every good act?

God’s word speaks that the leaders must rise up first to live a sacrificial life by their generous giving. Then the believers will learn the pleasure of giving to the poor and to the Lord’s mission by seeing (not just by hearing) the good acts of their leaders. When leaders model generosity in their lives, then they can challenge the churches to follow after their example. Even the Scripture says to observe the lifestyle of the leaders before following them - “Remember your leaders, who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith” (Hebrews 13:7, NLT).

Moreover, people will be inspired to give more when they know that their leaders are generous with what is received. Why do you think people sold their property and put it at apostles’ feet? Because the apostles were generously distributing to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35). One major reason for poor givers to exist in the church is because there is a lack of generous leaders. To the leaders, “What we are, they will become,” isn’t said in vain.

Here is a challenge to us, the servant leaders, from the life of John Wesley. 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 to the needy.

One year, when his 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.[2]

Wesley lived what he preached. Sales of his books often earned him 1,400 pounds annually, but he spent only 30 pounds on himself. The rest he gave away. He always wore inexpensive clothes and dined on simple food. “If I leave behind me 10 pounds,”he once wrote, “you and all mankind bear witness against me that I lived and died a thief and a robber.”[3]

How blessed it is to have such wonderful and generous leaders these days! May the Lord enable us to live a life of generosity for His glory and to be a blessing to people!

Feel free to post your comments below or you may write to :

[1] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 913-914
[2] Robert Backhouse, 1500 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (London:
Marshall Pickering Publishers), pg. 154.
[3] Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Illinois: Inter-Varsity
Press, 1984), pg. 164.


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