Acts 20:34

ESV You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
NIV You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.
NASB You yourselves know that these hands served my own needs and the men who were with me.
CSB You yourselves know that I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who are with me.
NLT You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me.
KJV Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

What does Acts 20:34 mean?

Paul is reminding the elders of the church in Ephesus how he worked to cover his expenses, something he had also done in Corinth (Acts 18:1–4). He did this so he could preach the gospel without distracting those who needed Christ.

Paul doesn't rehearse his virtues to gain honor for himself. He does so to present himself as an example (Philippians 3:17), to defend the message of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:5–6), and to illustrate how his worldly credentials mean nothing (Philippians 3:2–11). Here, he is officially transferring authority and responsibility for the church in Ephesus to the elders, reminding them how he led the church.

Paul has already reminded the elders that he did not go to Ephesus for riches (Acts 20:33). He went to testify "both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). He didn't want money to get in the way of his message (1 Corinthians 9:12), so he worked when he wasn't teaching. Paul tells the elders, "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'" (Acts 20:35).

In some of his letters, Paul seems to have a different view of his bi-vocational ministry. He scolds the church in Corinth about their assumption that they did not have to support him, saying, "Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?" (1 Corinthians 9:6–7). He reminds them that if an ox, that merely treads grain, is allowed to eat while it works, how much more should they have supported Paul who showed them the way to eternal life (1 Corinthians 9:8–14)?

Paul takes such a hard line in Corinth not because he resents working while he preached there. Rather, it's because when he left, the Corinthians promptly rejected the authority of what he taught them (1 Corinthians 4). He reminds them of his character so they can trust the integrity of his words.

Paul also reminds the church in Thessalonica of his refusal to be a burden on them, but his words are gentler (1 Thessalonians 2:9). The Thessalonian church was born under persecution (Acts 17:5–9) and seems to grow into an integrity the church in Corinth lacks. Paul's comment about his second job is more reminiscing with no hint of chastisement.

The men who were with Paul at least include Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22). They may also have included Gaius of Derbe, since Paul's team traveled through Derbe before they came to Ephesus (Acts 18:23). Of the other who are traveling with Paul now (Acts 20:4), Paul probably met Tychicus and Trophimus in Ephesus, where they would have had their own income, and picked up Luke, Sopater, Aristarchus, and Secundus after he left Ephesus.
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