What’s your idea of giving? Is it something that should be done with the expectation of receiving something in return, or is it something that should be done without expecting anything in return?
Once upon a time, my views of giving were terribly distorted.
My idea of receiving and giving was based off of selfish motives. You either had to earn your way into receiving anything, or you had a right to receive because you had given something.
I’m not talking about possessions, job positions, and personal achievements that you earn through hard work and determination. Duh, no one can give you the summer body you’ve always wanted-you have to work/earn that one yourself.
What I’m talking about are acts of kindness that come from the heart-things like a paid cup of coffee or lunch, or even something big and crazy- Oprah style. (You know… like “You get a car! You get a car! EVERYBODY GETS A CAR!”) Or maybe even an act of undeserved kindness.
It is true that when you give you are rewarded at some point in your life for the good you’ve done… so long as you’re not giving with the idea that you should receive things when you want them, at the exact time in whatever way you want it-that’s a false form of what it truly means to be a giver.
I am guilty of this. It’s embarrassing to think about the times I gave only out of self-interest. It’s painful to recall the times when I “gave” with the intention of having bragging rights on the social network or to get someone’s attention.
Giving to a cause or to a person in need because others were watching or doing it, also, never really brought me true satisfaction. Giving out of reluctance or because I felt bad for saying no only caused me to resent people and grow bitter. And saying I’d give to someone or something but then backing out and giving some excuse as to why I couldn’t do it made me feel restless and ashamed.
I didn’t begin to understand what giving was all about until I met Jesus. I continued trying to earn Grace, Forgiveness, and Mercy even after becoming a follower of Christ.
I didn’t like receiving things from people either even if I loved the gift I’d receive, mostly because some of the folks who gave to me also had distorted views about receiving and giving. Thoughts and messages of guilt and condemnation kept me from enjoying gifts freely. When and if I received anything, I felt like I was expected to give something back to the person who gave; instant guilt and shame followed.
Salvation through Christ also felt like something I needed to add to in order to keep it. I punished myself with thoughts of condemnation and guilt to keep me “in check.” I didn’t believe salvation really was a free gift.
“So, just like that I’m forgiven and saved, God? That’s it. No reminders of what I’ve done? No punishment or guilt messages? No angry words or expressions of disappointment in me? That seems too easy. Let me help you out with that.”
So God chose to teach me what “giving freely” truly meant through experience…
Giving my one can of Pepsi (after a conviction in my spirit) that I had purchased on a hot, HOT day with the only dollar I had left, to a homeless man who I knew could never repay me gave me a glimpse of God’s mercy.
Paying for a lonely elderly man’s lunch (after feeling a nudge from God to do so) when I knew he nor I would probably ever recongnize or meet each other ever again gave me a glimpse of God’s tender love and compassion.
Giving my mother the gift of forgiveness (when she never asked for it nor chose to own up to her mistakes) for the pain she caused and could never take back gave me a small glimpse and understanding of God’s forgiveness.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
-Apostle Paul, Acts 20:35
Accepting gifts-whether it be words of kindness & thoughtfulness, forgiveness, a free cup of tea or coffee, or even a compliment- without pushing them away or punishing myself for receiving them helped me understand that God is delighted in having me live in freedom and joy, regardless of anything I’ve ever done. I don’t know about you, but to me that is weird, mind boggling, and undeserving. It’s something I have a hard time grasping and even accepting.
Yet because God freely chooses to bless me regardless of anything I’ve done to not deserve it, I can only accept it, and then give to others because of the gratitude in my heart.
And guess what? Even though giving can be challenging at times, it gets easier to do when I remind myself of all the blessings I’ve received. I’ve made choices that were done with the wrong intentions, but, thankfully, those mistakes have taught me to do better and to check my heart’s motives when giving- a process that isn’t performed perfectly all the time.
It’s easy to give when you know you can expect something in return or when other people are watching you; It is harder, if not challenging, but more rewarding to sincerely give when you know someone won’t ever be able to repay you back.
In what ways do you enjoy giving to others? Do you believe giving is only tied to money? Or do you think there are talents, simple acts of kindness, and comforting words we can use to give also?