Sunday, September 2, 2007


it sucks to try to be nice to my husband sometimes. he won't let me. i know, it sounds odd. but read on...

if you were raised anywhere near a church (and probably even if you weren't), you've heard that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Paul says that Jesus said it (Acts 20). Paul himself had exemplified that tenet while in Ephesus, as per his report in that chapter. it seems straightforward enough.

but lately this particular idea has been a source of confusion and frustration. it is more blessed to give than to receive. ok, but in order for there to be a gift, there must be a recipient. someone has to do some receiving, or the whole thing doesn't work. especially when Christians serve one another (per Galatians 6:10), we end up chasing one another in a circle trying to be the "more blessed" one by giving more and never receiving, thereby robbing our brothers and sisters of the opportunity to give. do you see the illogic at work here?!

imagine this: two boys go outside to play catch. simple enough. except something isn't working. they both brought a ball, and each insists that his ball be used for catch. they both throw, and the balls roll around wildly because no one is focused on catching. the game isn't fun for very long, i'd imagine. unless you just turn it from cooperative interaction into a competition and see who can throw better or farther or with greater accuracy or something.

and - sticking with the silly sports analogy for a sec - it is actually much more difficult to catch than throw. my daughter has been able to chunk her toys across a room for some time now, but she still can't catch anything.

i get the necessity for the assertion that it is more blessed to give than receive. i need that reminder often, because i am selfish more often than i am not (especially when it comes to my time, but that's another post). but i propose that it has become equally necessary to remind ourselves that gratitude is as essential as generosity. it requires much discipline and humility to just let someone give me a gift and be thankful (without rehearsing just exactly how i am going to give something back to them so as not to lose the competition).

but i do want to be grateful as much as i want to be generous. the absence of one may well cancel the other out - or at least transform it into something else entirely. generosity that denies reciprocity becomes smug, condescending, and/or competitive. it has to be mutual. and gratitude without generosity becomes greedy and selfish. together, though, they point to a rhythmic exchange that is mutually edifying, i think. i hope. and i need my family and my community to require both from me.