Even though Jesus shows us how, we resist receiving as a way of life. We have adopted one line in Scripture: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and forgotten entirely to keep it in balance. Ask your friends whether they prefer to be the giver or receiver in a relationship, and most will proudly proclaim “giver.” Taken to its extreme, that can be an example of idolatry, of wanting to be God. The giver can quickly become the controller, the one to whom all the receivers are indebted. Because we are not God, and we do sin, giving without receiving is destructive, both of others and ourselves. In fact, we deny others the opportunity to give when we insist on being the “generous” one all the time.
Receiving on its own is equally harmful; insecurity and greed are the obvious culprits. And yet, for us, the cycle must begin by receiving from the loving God who gives from utter generosity in love, not from any need to control. Jesus reveals the truth to us, for he knows to ask when he wants help (asking Peter, James, and John to stay with him in the garden, asking those fishermen to follow and serve with him). We see him repeatedly surrendering himself to his Father, and in that surrender we find our guidance. When we surrender to God all our confusion about when to give and when to receive, we will begin to find the balance.
This message is adapted from “Transformation One Foot at a Time” written by Lynn C. Ramshaw in the September 2005 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather magazine).