We’ve all heard that saying. It’s one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. And it’s true. Ask any new parent at Christmas time. There is great joy in giving.
I’ve been trained to give. Give to charity. Give to church. Give to others less fortunate than me. Give to needy children around the world. I’m good at it, and it’s fun when my gifts are well-received. But I’ve found out recently that I’m not very good at the other end.
I’m a little proud. A little independent. I have that mentality that there’s shame in accepting charity. So I’ve not been a very gracious receiver. And that, I’m realizing, is a form of generosity in itself.
Last summer, some missionaries that we’ve supported for years came through town. We were good friends before they left for the mission field and we’ve kept in contact, so we went out for ice cream cones. They expressed a desire to treat us, but knowing how difficult it had been for them to raise support, I refused to let them pay, even when they insisted.
I realized afterwards that I’d unintentionally hurt them. Here we’d been giving to them each month for several years and they finally had the opportunity to reciprocate, to express their appreciation through a simple gift of ice cream. In my foolish pride, I’d stolen away their blessing. I’d hogged it all for myself. It was an uncomfortable lesson, but one I’ve taken to heart.
Recently, I was invited to a football game by an old friend. As kids, we had attended different churches and different high schools, but our youth groups held activities together, and we later went to the same university. Our high schools used to play each other, so we had developed a friendly rivalry that continued all through college–until we each married and saw each other far less. Now our kids’ schools compete against each other. After a twenty year hiatus, I’d been invited to attend the game.
When we stepped up to the gate, my friend handed the ticket guy enough money to cover my entrance fee. It felt a little awkward. I was holding five bucks in my hand and standing next in line. But when he handed me a ticket, I accepted it with a smile and thanked him. And he felt good about being able to treat an old friend. I’d learned a lesson about being a gracious receiver.
So how about you? How generous are you at receiving?