By Dorothy Kelley Patterson
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — This poignant beatitude from the lips of Jesus is so typical of the Savior — “… and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35).
Though not found in the four Gospels, its spirit is seen in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
These words represent the heart of the Lord with marvelous clarity. Although the greater blessing lies in the right kind of giving, the implication is that to receive is also blessed.
The whole ministry of the Lord was wrapped up in giving, and the glory of the Gospel is its testimony to the unfolding of God’s gift to man.
GIVING & RECEIVING
How often have you given or tried to give in a spirit of love and compassion only to be rejected or ignored? There is nothing that cuts so deeply and leaves an ache so painful as spurned giving — whether it be an object carefully chosen or a deed lovingly planned.
Surely God has designed that the receiving of a gift or ministry is a vehicle that will also bless the receiver for whom it is intended just as much as it serves to delight the giver. Gratitude is the inspiration of heaven’s most melodious anthems. Its fruit is joy in the time of mourning, courage in the day of despondency, security in the hour of loneliness, peace in the midst of the battle, and satisfaction in spiritual or physical famine.
The writer of Ecclesiastes expressed it well:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)
Apparently both profit from this mutual love and caring for one another. During the Christmas season, as perhaps no other, we can look forward with joyous expectation to receiving as well as to giving.
Let us look at some important aspects of the opportunity for glorifying God, even in our receiving.
A DIVINE MINISTRY
In the first place, receiving assumes that someone has given. The Scripture says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God Himself inspires the giver. God knows more than you do about your needs. When you spurn a gift, you may well be rejecting a timely ministry inspired of God to minister to your own unique need.
One of my greatest delights is to extend hospitality to family, friends and even to strangers. I like to make plans, design invitations, prepare food and arrange tables. I even receive a certain satisfaction from doing the cleaning up myself, especially if I can take my time and meditate on the service rendered and ministry extended as well as on the delight of those who received my ministry.
However, as my days have become busier, my interests more diverse and my pressures more intense, I have discovered that often I cannot do all I have planned. Occasionally even when friends had offered to help, I resisted, wanting to do it all myself — to be self-sufficient, independent, free from indebtedness to anyone. Now, in my senior years, oh, how sweet to relax and tear down my resistance to assistance, to enjoy the security of camaraderie, to experience the success of partnership, to accept a gift of time, energy or creativity from a friend or staff member even as one would accept a beautifully adorned package inspiring anticipation. For, you see, this help becomes a gracious and sacrificial gift of self from someone who cares about me.
A SPIRITUAL EXERCISE
Receiving is also profitable as a spiritual exercise. You must embrace humility by recognizing your own need for help from another. You must admit that you are not always adequate in yourself. What an effective lesson in gratitude!
God is the greatest Giver (John 3:16). If you spurn the gifts of your loved ones here on earth, how can you gratefully receive the gifts of the heavenly Father? If you are a poor receiver here, you have failed the first step in learning how to be grateful for spiritual gifts.
A LOVING FELLOWSHIP
The giver and receiver have a unique opportunity for fellowship with each other. An expression of love awakens a response of gratitude. An awakening of concern prompts a reply of delight.
Giving of yourself enables the receiving of that gift by another, which is the heart and essence of fellowship.
A CHRISTMAS PLEA
Of course, you hear much about giving during the blessed Christmas season, and I would not want to detract from that. Yet, let me also go on record as pleading for open hearts on the part of those receiving — whether husbands or wives, parents or children, friends or strangers.
If someone wants to give you a selected gift or do a sweet deed, please do not look for excuses or apologies to receive what is lovingly offered. Avoid rejection of a gift graciously given or the overlooking of a deed unselfishly done.
Rather, extend your hand and open your heart; experience, enjoy and accept creativity; express appreciation and feel gratitude. You, too, will be blessed and you, too, will be ministering to another — perhaps even to one you love!
Dorothy Kelley Patterson is professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article, adapted from her book “A Woman Seeking God: Discover God in the Places of Your Life,” first appeared at the Biblical Woman website of Southwestern Seminary.