There is no doubt that it is more blessed to give than to receive because Jesus said so. But it doesn’t always feel like blessing. In fact, giving is high-risk behavior … a high-stakes proposition.
How could that be? The answer may surprise you: Giving is a huge act of vulnerability.
Have you ever thought about that?
Can you identify with the nervous feeling experienced when wrapping a box that contains a carefully chosen gift? “Will she like it?” “Will it fit him?” “Am I saying too much about my feelings by giving this?” “Is it personal enough?” “Is it too personal?”
Something about giving bares the heart and says, “Here’s what I think of you.” “Here’s how much I care about you.” “Here’s what I look like when I try to express love for someone.”
And not only that, giving also exposes our taste (good or bad), our savviness (knowing what is in style), and how well we really know the person to whom we are giving a gift.
Giving makes us vulnerable!
That’s why we watch our loved one’s face so closely when he or she opens our gift! We long to see a look of delight, and we dread seeing a flicker of disappointment quickly followed by a hollow attempt to heartily express how wonderful the gift is.
Perhaps the thing we fear the most is the sideways glance that you notice between people you care about … the unspoken acknowledgement between them that the gift you gave failed to achieve its goal.
It hurts to have our gifts rejected.
“Why do we even TRY to give gifts to each other?” In the next few weeks this very question will be asked by miserable couples on their long drive home from yet another dysfunctional family holiday that turned tense or ended awkwardly.
So … why DO we do it? We may have many conflicting reasons why we give, all the way from a desire to bless to an avoidance of feeling guilty. And we may not even understand our own motives.
But to understand giving in its purest form, we need to look at the undisputed champion Giver—Jesus.
Jesus’ gift far exceeds our own. He gave Himself, even to the point of murder at the hands of those to whom He gave Himself.
Jesus’ risk far exceeds our own.
The rejection that Jesus faces far exceeds anything we will ever experience.
And yet He still loves without wavering and gives without hesitating.
The life of Jesus teaches us many lessons about living the gift-giving life in a world that doesn’t often reward generosity. Following are just a few:
God, the wisest being that exists, believes that giving is worth it. He so loved this world that He gave us His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not die, but instead have eternal life.
God believes that giving is worth it, even when it only leads to rejection. The risk of giving says, “You matter so much to me that I will brave the vulnerability and risk the pain of rejection just to express my love to you.” And so He came to His own creation, even though He knew that His own people would reject Him. He was despised and rejected by men (and He knew in advance that He would be!), and yet He acted on His love instead of reacting out of defensiveness.
God taught us (by His own example of being rejected) that when others choose to reject our giving, it says something about THEM, not us.
God taught us that the purest and most beautiful love, loves anyway. “Having loved them, He loved them to the very end” (John 13:1). Even on the cross, Jesus was GIVING them forgiveness faster than they were TAKING His life. He loved anyway.
In this, Jesus showed us that perfect love makes a conscious decision to cast out fear in order to love as deeply as possible. Perfect love drives out fear (I John 4:18), but there’s more. Perfect love faces down pain in order to lavish gifts on the object of one’s passion.
This reminds me of the incident in which Jesus was surrounded by critics who were trying to find a way to destroy Him. It was the Sabbath; and when Jesus went to worship, He met a man in the synagogue with an atrophied, paralyzed hand. All of His critics were watching Him like a hawk to “catch” Him violating the Sabbath by healing. They knew that the love of Jesus responded intuitively and immediately to the suffering of others by giving healing wherever it was needed.
Jesus knew that giving the gift of healing to this man would cost Him at the hands of those who wished His ruin, but He called the man up front anyway and asked His enemies in effect, “You tell me. Is it more lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil? On this day of all days, is it the right thing to save life or to kill?”
I realized this week how powerful it is that Jesus did not say, “Is it right to save life on this day or to wait until the Sabbath is over?” The choice was not between doing something on the Sabbath or waiting for another day. The statement Jesus made to them was this: “I’m trying to rescue a man’s life here (the man with the withered hand) and you’re trying to wreck a man’s life (Jesus’ own life, by urgently seeking a way to destroy His life-work). His question to them was, “Which of those things sounds more like God’s law?”
Here’s the point: Jesus knew that GIVING THE GIFT of healing would focus the hatred of His enemies on His own life and would ultimately result in His REJECTION and His death, but His perfect love for the suffering man caused Him to drive out fear and heal him anyway.
You and I are the followers of the Great Lover—the Great Giver—who faced down His natural human fears to love us to the end.
As His followers, we must learn to be unconditional givers. We must give when it is appreciated as well as when it is despised. We must give and love when it brings joy, and we must give and love when our gift and our love are rejected.
May God use this Christmas season to confirm in us His will that we should pour out our own lives as a gracious gift to others in response to God’s gracious gift to us—even if we are rejected!
Merry Christmas! May God bless you all as you worship Him for His indescribable gift!