Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Will you accept the gift? [2017:7/52]

If you've grown up in church like I did, the title of this post, "Will you accept the gift?" is not unfamiliar. It usually refers to salvation - a free gift given by God.

But this isn't about that.

The gift I'm talking about could be any gift, any act of kindness or form of service that one person can give to another.

Almost all people like to get gifts, but have you ever thought about the circumstances under which we will happily accept a gift?

- Birthdays
- Anniversaries
- Christmas
- Graduations
- Weddings
- Baby Showers

It seems like there must be some special occasion in order to willingly accept a gift.

What about a gift that is given, "just because?" And what about a gift that is given to meet a perceived need - something we can't provide for ourselves? That's the kind of gift I'm talking about, and it is often difficult to accept.

I've got some friends who were in a serious car accident. The didn't suffer any major injuries but needed a few days of rest to let the bumps and bruises heal. I wanted to bring them a meal one night just so they didn't have to cook or go out for food.

When I offered the gift I was prepared for the reaction I'm accustomed to hearing: "Oh that's OK. We can manage. Don't worry about us. We're fine."

I was prepared to offer a little more forcefully until they relented.

However, my friends surprised me with their response. "Thank you. We accept your love offering."

At first the response seemed odd to me, but I quickly realized what a beautiful response it was.

Where I come from, people are used to being the giver and not the receiver. Self-sufficiency is a virtue right up there with honesty, hard work, strong moral character and patriotism. Receiving help is not a regular activity. And if the time ever comes when help is needed, it is customary to put on a self-sufficient show, making a big production of how you can manage and others shouldn't inconvenience themselves for your sake. Then, after a sufficient amount of resistance, it is allowable to accept the gift ... begrudgingly.

It was common for me growing up to see two grown men arguing over who would pay for the meal at a restaurant. I never understood it.

Having spent time with people from different cultures and different walks of life, I'm starting to see that not everyone puts such high value on being self-sufficient. And not everyone makes such a big show of being able to fend for themselves.

Some people happily accept gifts given "just because" or gifts given to help meet needs.

Jesus gives us an example of being willing to accept a gift. Remember, in John 12, when Mary poured perfume on His feet and wiped them with her hair? One of the disciples objected, but Jesus defended her actions and embraced the act of kindness.

Mary's was an uncommon act of kindness intended to bless the receiver. But many times we forget about the blessing received by the giver ... unless the giver is us!

Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." This is a well-known phrase. We teach it to our children so they will be generous as they grow up. Most of us try to live out this truth by being generous ourselves - especially when those around us need help.

But, if giving is the MORE BLESSED position, why are we so hesitant to allow others to give to us?

Think about the feeling you get when you give a good gift to someone. It's way better than receiving the gift. After all, being the receiver can often imply need. So, to meet someone else's need feels great. But it also puts the giver in a position of power, self-sufficiency and greater blessing.

What if we allowed others - maybe even those we consider needy - to occupy the position of giver once in a while? What if they could hold the power, the feeling of self-sufficiency and the greater blessing.

Being generous isn't always about giving, sometimes we must receive as well.

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