Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot Was Not the First to Say It

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

“He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

That quote is universally associated today with the name Jim Elliot, one of five American missionaries who were martyred in South America in the 1950s. He had indeed written them in his journal, and they convey a profound truth. But they did not originate with Elliot. Almost those precise words were spoken and written centuries earlier.

To find the original (or perhaps yet one more preacher who borrowed these words from someone else), we must go back almost 300 years, to the mid-1600s, to the life of Philip Henry (1631-1696), father of Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the famous Bible commentator. In Matthew Henry’s biographical account of his father’s life, he notes his father’s practice while pastor in Worthenbury, England (1658-1662) to set aside a tenth of his income for charitable purposes, notably the relief of the poor. Matthew then states regarding his father,

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