Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's More Blessed To Receive Than To Give

If you think I made a typo in the title, you’re wrong. In a Christian culture that emphasizes serving others and doing great things for God, it can be a strange message. But, here it goes: STOP GIVING.

Or, at least, stop just giving. Contrary to popular belief, being needy is not a spiritual weakness. Sometimes, giving too much and refusing to ever take from others can actually be a sin.

You might think that sounds crazy, right, or at least mildly anti-Christian. But wait. Wait right there. I have C.S. Lewis on my side for this one.

Take that.

But, just in case name-dropping a popular Christian writer isn’t enough for you to blindly accept my claim, here’s the actual logic behind it.

This is a passage from The Four Loves, where Lewis talks about charity, the love that’s completely undeserved: “This, though a sort of love we need, is not the sort we want. We want to be loved for our cleverness, beauty, generosity, fairness, usefulness. The first hint that anyone is offering us the highest love of all is a terrible shock.”

In other words, in my case, I want to be the gracious forgiver, not the one who, by asking for forgiveness, has to admit a mistake.

I want to give advice, but be wise enough to never need it myself.

I want to be admired for what I accomplish and the great character traits I exhibit, not loved out of the simple fact that I exist and God told you to love me.

But guess what? There are times when I make mistakes, don’t know what to do, and act in very unloveable ways. When that happens, people around me love me anyway, and it’s easy to resent that. It’s easy to reject any help and try to do everything on my own, saying, “I don’t need your charity. Go away.”

I've already talked about how I would rather not need you--or anyone. But this goes even deeper. In some ways, I want to be loved for who I am and not what I do. Because that just sounds nice, doesn’t it? But in other ways—in way more ways than I ever realized—I actually do want to be loved for what I do.

I know this because, right now, after two months of looking for a full-time job to replace my part-time writing income, I’m not accomplishing very much. And I can feel the weight of expectations, most of them probably imagined, pressing down on me.

Lately, I’ve been burdened with the idea that I have to do something, and soon. And why? Because I don’t want to be a failure. Because getting a job will mean that I’m good at what I do. Because if I’m not doing something (defined as anything that will seem impressive to anyone inquiring about my employment status), then I am not really worth anything.

That’s a lie. All of them are lies. But they all come from the idea that I want to deserve love from others. And that affects how I view God’s love as well, because the way we give and receive earthly love always shapes how we give and receive heavenly love. That’s the way it works.

So, here’s something to think about: do you ever serve God so that he has a good reason to love you? I think I probably do at times, even though that’s not something I consciously think about. But the fact is, I can never earn God’s love. That’s the whole point.

This can get a little tricky, of course. There’s a difference between working toward the commendation of “Well done, good and faithful servant” (which is good), and thinking you need to earn your salvation (definitely bad). Just like there’s a difference between being grateful for the compliments from people around you (good), and depending on that positive affirmation to tell you who you are and what you’re worth (bad).

I’ll let you figure out the details…partially because I’m still finding the balance myself.

(And, in case you’re wondering, it’s also fine to ask me how the job search is coming. I appreciate that you care.)

I guess I’m not really saying to stop giving. On a daily level there are a thousand ways we should be focusing on showing love to others. But if you identified with this post at all, maybe you need to work on receiving love as well, both from God and from others.

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