Is giving better than receiving?
The obvious answer is, yes, of course it is. And that is very true. Focusing on what we have and what we get immediately puts a wall between us and God. The last of the Ten Commandments tells us that coveting what belongs to others, wishing we could have it as good as we think everyone else has it, turns our eyes away from Jesus, and leads to a whole host of other sins.
So it does seem like a silly question.
Let me continue.
I grew up wanting to be very independent, and learned to be very good at it. My grandparents were raised to be hard workers who took care of themselves, and considered it a matter of honor not to “take charity”. You do what it takes to provide for your family, and for your neighbors in need, but there are always others who will need the help more than you do. They never wanted to be a burden to anyone else by not being useful, or being unprepared for whatever life had to throw at them. That work ethic trickled down into me as well.
Determination not to be idle, and to do one’s part are very valuable traits to have, but they can also be used to focus us on ourselves and to distract us from Jesus’ work in and through us. For years, my determination to be independent and to be useful to others led me to bottling up every problem I had so that I would never have to be a burden to anyone. Even now, being blessed to bring my every fear and concern to my Savior, it is easy for me to use that as an excuse never to rely on others for prayer, especially when I am stressed or feeling inadequate.
Jesus knows me so well though. There are times that He draws me away from others so that I can spend time alone in the quiet with Him. Then there are times when I can hardly pray a word or read a verse without Him pressing me to seek others out, share my weaknesses, and pray with them. When I obey those promptings, it is such a blessing. There are so many intricate ways He has to urge me to overcome my proud independence.
I had to confront all of this rather recently at work. The Lord has blessed me with coworkers who truly love Him, and they have been a wonderful blessing to me. The path on which Jesus is leading me had me living on very little, and they provided help for me in that time. It made my independence squirm. I hadn’t realized I had so much pride left! At first I wanted a reason not to accept their gift, then I wanted to find someone who needed that help more than I did, and give it away as soon as possible so that I could go back to having only a little again! Do you ever feel that it is easier to accept reluctant help than it is to accept help eagerly given out of love, without even having to ask for it?
Receiving sincere gifts, with no obligations and no flattery attached, really forces us to be vulnerable. It forces us to admit a need. How often do we want to do that? In those times, it can be so easy to hide behind Jesus as an excuse for not needing help from His people. Sometimes He does have us accept less from others than they are willing to provide. Think of Paul, working as a tent-maker so that the churches he was helping would not have to pay for his needs. Other times, we stubbornly choose to live in the wilderness out of habit, rather than allowing Him to show us the joy and glory of relying on our brothers and sisters, even as He has them rely on us. That relationship, and the vulnerability that comes with it, strengthens us together as the body of Christ, and teaches us so much about Him that we never could have known on our own while resisting the call to depend on each other.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17
When the Lord calls us to give of ourselves, He is allowing us to be involved with Him in what He loves most. Yet He shows us something so magnificent when we sit and watch with Him as others have the opportunity to experience that same joy of giving. It is also a strong and comforting reminder that we are not the ones who cause good things to happen. He loves to have us involved, but it is such a humble blessing to be taught to close our eyes and hold out our hands for the blessings He has prepared through others. Be willing to receive, and see what love He will shower upon you.