Biblical Archaeology Review 38:6, November/December 2012

Strata: The Bible In The News: Give and Take with Gifts and Tackles

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

The Book of Acts (20:35) preserves this saying from Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In slightly revised form (“It is better …”), this phrase is widespread throughout the world. As reported in the popular press, this is indeed a worthwhile sentiment—although not always in the sense we might expect.

In an extended interview in The Guardian of London, well-known writer Jonathan Safran Foer gives voice to some of the ambiguities that arise in appropriating this expression. When asked, “Is it better to give or to receive?” he responded: “Depends. A punch? A Fabergé egg?”

I must admit that I had never before considered the matter from this perspective. Former rugby coach for Samoa’s World Cup team Michael Jones “was once asked how a Christian could be such an uncompromising tackler. In reply, he quoted from the Bible, saying: ‘It’s better to give them than to receive’ ” (The Western Mail).

Another rugby star, Bakkies Botha, reportedly observed that giving and receiving (tackles) are often part of the same extended process. This is not limited to sports. Thus, in reporting on Houston Restaurant Weeks, which benefits the charity Houston Food Bank, The New York Times records: “Originally just one week, the culinary event has grown to a full month, and last year it raised more than a half-million dollars. The adage goes it’s better to give than to receive, but what’s even better is to give and receive.”

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