Receiving as Well as you Give

We all know that it is more blessed to give than to receive however do you know that it is also blessed to receive?

In the early days at The Gathering Church, we used to meet at a home following which we all had lunch together. During these lunch times, it gave me great joy when it came to serving the people, be it serving food, offering second helpings (in some cases third), doing the dishes, cleaning up etc.

Even in my days at a youth group, I had such opportunities to serve. The believers at the youth group and at The Gathering, seeing this, affirmed that this is a gift given to me by God and they were greatly encouraged to see the grace of God working in my life. This in turn encouraged me to continue in the same grace.

However there was something that crept in unnoticed. This was a subtle thought pattern which led to me to behave in a way that did not reflect the gospel.

“What was it?” you’re probably asking. It was this: I found that I had a problem asking or accepting help from most people, in almost all forms. In any kind of settings where the need to serve arose, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the service.

This was a manifestation of two sins, I believe. One is pride and the other is a simple lack of finding my full worth in Jesus.
Since being served rather than serving meant adopting a position of humbleness, I found it quite hard to swallow albeit at a subconscious level. It also created a feeling of owing someone, again at a subconscious level. The other reason – my sense of unworthiness – led me to believe that I am not worth being served.

Hence I would do most things myself, whether it be serving food for myself, getting my own glass of water, and the like. I found it hard to ask or accept help in the small things which meant there was seldom a chance of me asking or accepting help when it came to the bigger things.

Surprisingly, what brought this sin to light was a book on marriage, Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage” to be precise. Consider this excerpt from his book:

“Kathy and I remember a pivotal incident in our marriage that occurred during a visit to New England, where we had attended seminary. The two of us along with our three sons were staying with friends, and I had hoped very much at some point to be able to get away to the nearby seminary bookstore, just to see what was new, maybe pick up a few interesting books.

But I knew that it would mean precious time taken out of the other things we were doing together as a family, and it would leave Kathy with the full burden of caring for the kids.

And so I was afraid to ask for it. Instead, I hoped Kathy would guess about my desire and simply offer the time to me. But she didn’t do it, and soon I found myself deeply resentful of her “failure” to read my mind. Surely she should know how much I love visiting the bookstore! I work very hard – why doesn’t she propose that I take the afternoon away simply because I deserve the break? I began to imagine that she knew I wanted to go to the bookstore but was dead set against it.

After a long, grumpy day helping Kathy with the kids and feeling sorry for myself, I finally told her how sorry I was that I had never made it to the bookstore. She was rightfully unhappy with me, and said, “Yes, that would have been inconvenient for me, but I would have loved to have given you that freedom. I never get a chance to give you gifts, and you’re always helping me with something. You denied me the chance to serve you!”

I immediately realized however, that I didn’t want to be served. I didn’t want to in a position where I had to ask for something and receive it as a gift. Kathy was deeply disappointed and insulted that I had robbed her of the opportunity to do so. We drove home in angry silence as I tried to figure out what had happened.

Finally I began to see. I wanted to serve, yes, because that made me feel in control. Then I would always have the high moral ground. But that kind of “service” isn’t service at all, only manipulation. But by not giving Kathy an opportunity to serve me, I had failed to serve her. And the reason underneath it all was my pride.”

As Keller himself states, his sin, which was pride, stopped him from asking or accepting help from his wife.

If you have seen such a pattern in your thinking and behaviour, like I have, then let us look to the gospel to counter this, since central to the gospel, is Jesus Christ, who did all that was needed to be done in order to save us for all eternity.

Think about this: When you first heard that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), what else did you do other than to humbly receive this saving work through repentance and belief? And when you heard about the “kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1) didn’t this knowledge break down your false sense of unworthiness?

The gospel empowers you to serve one another humbly and it also humbles you to be served by one another.

Endeavour to gain a deeper understanding of the gospel through studying the Bible, through prayer, being part of and serving in the church, reading good books etc. so that the truth takes root and transforms your heart to be a person who gives and receives well, thus glorifying God through Jesus Christ.


Author’s Note: This article first appeared on The Gathering Community Church website.

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