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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ How Is It More Blessed to Give Than Get? ~

“It’s more blessed to give than receive.” Many of us still have a hard time with that one. Part of the difficulty is in the meaning of “blessed.” Part of it is that this statement goes against the education and belief of our culture of acquisition. We are raised to work hard to receive, whether the pursuit is material wealth, status, respect, love or even holiness.

Have you not heard so many say, “I am so blessed with what God has given me, I must give back...to the community, church, family or God”? Two things strike me upon hearing that. One is that sense that the giving is out of abundance of the receiving, which makes it easy to give. Wealthy celebrities are known for their charitable gifts. Big deal. When Christ challenged a wealthy man asking to be His disciple by telling him to first go and abandon all he had to give of himself, he never returned. The other odd thing is how can we “give God” what He already owns, be it our time, service or money?

Here are some examples of ludicrous statements I heard from radio and pulpit preachers: “In return for all God’s given you, you can spare five minutes of your time giving back to Him your prayerful attention; You can afford to give back to God a portion of your abundance; For every dollar you give to God, He will bless you with ten more.”

What may help in understanding the opening statement of this Reflection, or better, feeling its reality, is another statement: There is more honor in being chosen to fulfill a great need or task than to receive commendations for what you have already done or given.

The prophet Isaiah recognized this when God asked, “Who can I send?” “Send me!” he cried. How greatly God honored Isaiah when He told him, “Yes, you’re the man!” For forty years, Moses led a peaceful life of comfort and little stress, happily married and living in simple abundance. Prior to that, Moses was greatly blessed by being raised in the opulence, status and power of Pharaoh’s court and household.

Moses was no doubt grateful and figured he would die happily and peacefully. Then God interrupted these blessings with a greater one: “I have chosen you to be the deliverer of my people from the bondage of Egypt.” At first, Moses did not perceive this as a blessing, though the honor of being chosen must have overwhelmed his humble self and he did raise objections. Nonetheless, the profound honor for which we remember Moses came only upon his giving of himself as the leader of the great exodus.

Centuries later, Moses was given the incredible honor and blessing of being along side of the transfigured Christ in His brilliant glory, along with the prophet Elijah. What great honor to be chosen, a mere human, to discuss the mystery of the Almighty’s redemptive work with Him, like a colleague! (I wish I knew what they discussed!)

The Book of Revelation strongly indicates that Moses and Elijah will be chosen again to give of themselves as the two great witnesses of the end of time. Is this not being blessed?

Jesus remarked during His notable “Sermon of the Mount” how life giving rain and food are given alike to the good and evil among people. But evil people are not blessed in the same way as those made righteous by God’s grace. They are not chosen to give without first receiving the supreme gift of transformation.

This idea of being more blessed to give than get is not really foreign to the experience of the least of us. You may have heard of the story of a man explaining to a neighbor where his new car came from, as he was poor and desperately needed one. “A friend gave it to me.” His neighbor quipped, “I wish I had a friend like that.” The man replied, “I wish I could be a friend like that.” Indeed, who is more blessed?

Now let’s raise the stakes a bit higher. St. Peter writes, “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5, NIV). The living Stone was rejected by the governing powers of this world, and will continue to be. We are declared to be like Him, living stones, “chosen.” Christ told us, consequently, we will also be rejected and persecuted by people, even our friends and families, for "the servants are not greater [or above] their Master.” Ponder whether or not you embrace this as a “blessing.” Your answer will reflect whether you are into the Gospel of Christ for love and preservation of self or the love that surrenders yourself to the Other, to get or give. Which is more “blessed”?

As I write this, the sun is bathing me in warmth and brilliance. I feel as though I’m the only one receiving this gift. The sun and I are seemingly alone. However, I know that millions of others are feeling the same personal gift of and relationship with the sun. The Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit is something like that. He is infused into the Church and into individuals alike. He doesn’t share Himself or divide Himself up to distribute among us.

Like people basking in the same sun miles apart, the Spirit is given to each of us in His fullness. The ability to manifest His fullness in our lives is our limitation of receiving and bearing witness to this inexplicable gift, of the Spirit of the Creator of the heavens and earth. He owns all, right from our next breath.

This reminds me of a family counseling session I facilitated between a teenaged girl and her parents. The girl had enough of parental restrictions and told me in front of her parents that she was going to pack up everything she owned and move out on her own. Previous sessions already established that she had not worked for her possessions. Her parents gave them all to her. So I remarked to her, “That would not only be embarrassing but illegal.” “What do you mean?” she quipped. “Well, it would be embarrassing and uncomfortable and quite illegal to walk around the streets naked.” “What are you talking about?” she asked, confused and indignant. I explained, “Everything you have that you think you own have been given to you. You own them in a sense, but not in the sense you perceive. Even your clothing is a gift and, as such, define an accountability and relationship between you and the giver. If I gave you a treasured and personally meaningful possession, I trust we would both be delighted and feel a connectivity of hearts. Of course you are free to do with it what you wish, since a gift is unconditionally given. Yet, if you pawned it for cash to buy a supply of drugs, you would hurt and dishonor me and the gift.” The girl’s perspective began to shift and eventually matured into appreciating gifts as not self-centered entitlements but as definitions of relationships that must be honored and held sacred. She learned to treasure her gifts for what they truly were.

And so it is between God and us. Heart-centered giving and receiving are indistinguishable in practice on earth and in the economy of the heaven realm.
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~
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