I often hear the misquote: “It is better to give than to receive.”

Paul relays this maxim from Jesus in Acts 20:35.

The error? Jesus did not say “It is better…” Rather, he said, “It is more blessed…”

Notice the shift in meaning this change allows. “More blessed” pointed to self-interest of the giver, but “better” allows us to gloss over that detail. It suggests that a choice could somehow be “better in general,” rather than better for a specific person.

But values are always values for particular people, for particular purposes they have chosen.

The switch would have been justified, had it appeared in any of the major translations. But one after another agree: the ESV, KJV, NIV, NASB, NLT, the Holman, and all the others say “more blessed.”

What does the erroneous shift make possible? It removes the personal motivation. It makes it seem that the needs of others should be our final priority.

But what does Jesus’ maxim mean?

Does Jesus teach us to give as an end in itself, or for the sake of the blessing we will receive?

Read for yourself, and decide.