Give rather than get

“More blessed to give than receive?” You’ve got to be kidding! What kind of a statement is that? That’s ridiculous! Of course it’s more awesome to receive than it is to give. That’s what we’ve been taught all our lives. That’s what makes us feel good – getting more things – isn’t it?

But what if it were true? It’s kind of like eating vegetables. Once I was taught to eat them, I eventually liked them. Then I really liked them. Then I discovered that I felt better when I ate my vegetables. It actually made me healthier then my previous diet of burgers.

How could it be true? How could I be more blessed by giving than by getting? First we have to acknowledge that it must be true because it comes from Truth. “… You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NLT). Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Next we need to see if we can understand why the “vegetable” of giving is  better than the “appetite” for acquiring. When I spend my life getting, I never seem able to satisfy that hunger.

No matter how much I get, I want more and bigger. My appetite becomes insatiable!

When I spend my life getting things, I end up with more things that can get lost, stolen or broken.

I spend much of my time wanting to protect my acquisitions.

When I risk learning the fun of giving, I end up learning to do something that can’t be taken away from me. Sharing with others is free of baggage. Whether the recipients express appreciation for my gifts or not is irrelevant, if I’m doing it for the right reasons.

Giving to others is really an opportunity to do something for Jesus. He even said that when we do things for people in need (He called them “the least of these” in Matthew 25:40), we are really doing it for Him. It’s actually pretty exciting to imagine being invited to a party to give a gift to God.

So, giving that should excite us is really giving that uses people in need as an opportunity to give to Jesus, and then to give the glory for it to Jesus. When I give like that, no one can take the blessing away. When I give without waiting to be thanked, then I know I am giving to Jesus.

This is a difficult lesson to learn, because our culture doesn’t teach it. Parents that teach this lesson to their children will give their children a great gift for life. These children will grow up without being victimized by marketers and advertisers. These children will learn the great lesson of learning: to be content with what they have (Philippians 4:11).

So what if we turned this Christmas upside down? What if we decided that it really was Christ’s birthday celebration? Imagine if we taught our children to get excited about giving rather than about getting.

This lesson would no doubt take a while to take hold, but it is a great lesson they would take on into adulthood. The teaching could start with a family meeting in early December. Decide the target for giving. It could be a widow in the church or a single-mom in the neighborhood. Pick the target of your generosity and get excited about giving to Jesus through this target this Christmas.

It’s time we decided that the word of God is truth. Though my feelings have been poorly trained and corrupted to think it’s better to get gifts than it is to give gifts, this is the year to get it right. If you’ve spent a lifetime ignoring the health rules and backed away from vegetables, starting to eat asparagus takes some getting used to. But then you begin to realize that eating vegetables literally does make you feel better.

When it comes to this year’s Christmas, it’s time to teach our children the joy of another kind of healthy consumption. The joy of giving is the blessing no one can take away, but it is a hunger and thirst that must be taught.

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.

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