Friday, July 27, 2012

Learning to Give and Learning to Receive

     One of the best known and loved sayings of our Lord was given not in one of the Gospels but in the book of Acts.  Paul, in speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, said:  "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).  This portion of Scripture comes at the time that Paul is giving his farewell address to the believers before leaving for Jerusalem.  On this trip, Paul will be arrested and imprisoned for the glory of God.  Therefore, the words he shares with the elders are some important instructions for the growth of believers and the church as a whole.  
     My own mother repeated this scripture more times than I can remember especially when I was not wanting to share with someone.  It became ingrained in my thinking.  When I fully committed my life and heart to Christ years later, He grew in me the desire to give to others, and I found a greater joy in giving than I did in receiving.
     Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is all about "ME".  We have more takers than givers.  People feel entitled to have it all no matter what it takes or who might be hurt in the process; so the words of Christ fly in the face of man's selfish desires.  Do not misunderstand what I have written.  It is a good thing to work honestly at a job to supply the needs for our family.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to acquire items that can make our lives easier, but lusting after "things" is a form of idolatry and contrary to the teachings of our Lord.
     There are many simple ways in which we can give to others that will bring great joy to our hearts.  Each year, I try to work on some handmade gifts for our children and their spouses as well as our grandchildren.  It is a delight to pray over what I make, and my heart is full when I see them smile at the things I have made for them.  Besides gift making, we can prepare meals for those in need following surgery, during illness or just as a gift for them at a time of sorrow.
     Another way in which we can give is to volunteer.  In our community, we have a free health care system called "Samaritan's Touch" where people can come for medical care if they do not have insurance and their income makes it impossible for them to receive necessary assistance.  Places like this health ministry always need volunteers.  Likewise, local hospitals appreciate volunteers who can offer a smile to the sick.
     Giving of our time and talent (not just money) to help another person in need is one of the most fulfilling things we can participate in.  It demonstrates the love of Christ to others and opens doors to talk about our faith.  However, there is also one additional thing we all must learn to do.
     In addition to giving, we need to learn to receive, with grace,  the provision that God is making available to us.  When someone knocks on our door with a covered dish or gives us a ride to the doctor's office, we need to willingly receive this kindness with grateful humility.  So many Christians are happy to give but when someone wants to help them, their pride can get in the way.  We have to remember that we are keeping someone from a blessing if we refuse help when we really need it.  Certainly we are not to take advantage of the kindness of others, but when a friend comes to assist us in a time of need, we need to be able to thank them and God for their help.
     When we learn to give to others and to receive with a heart of gratitude, I believe we will begin to live as Jesus described in John 7:38:  "Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"  As we empty our stream out to help others, God continuously refills us so that we may live as a blessing to others.  Likewise, if our stream begins to dry up from want, God sends other servants to refresh us with gifts of love, time, and help.  Learning to give and to receive with grace brings glory to God our heavenly Father and blessings to our fellow man.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this subject.  Please feel free to leave your comments of encouragement.


Christina said...

This is so beautiful, Barbara! Once, when Steven and I both were laid off at the same time, a dear sister from church, who was on public assistance, came to the house with a load of groceries. It was very hard at that time to humble ourselves and accept her help but, in it was the clear and decisive hand of God. If the prophet Elijah could accept provision from and be supported by a widow, then surely Steven and I had to learn to accept God's provision by way of a single mother who loved the Lord and was on public assistance. Another great post!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you for sharing this story about how the Lord worked in your lives. I think when we share we put feet to our words. God grows us in giving and receiving doesn't He? So happy you stopped by!!!