I love encouraging people in generosity! God does too. I actually think it’s one of His favorite things to do. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Even Jesus said it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
In the tradition I was part of as a young adult, if I tried to refuse a gift from someone they’d often insist reminding me that they were being blessed by the act of generosity as well. All of this is good and right and appropriate. But recently I was struck by a passage I’ve read dozens of times from Paul. He said receiving a gift results in praises to God. Not just giving -- receiving.
My husband travels quite a bit for his job. It’s getting easier, but at the beginning of his career when the kids were small it was pretty tough. Now all four kids are potty-trained and can buckle themselves in their own car seats so we are clearly winning, but still the nights with him away can take a toll.
A couple of weeks ago, word got around that my husband was out of town again and some family friends invited the kids and me over for dinner. On a weeknight. Our friend called at the last minute and said they were cooking and could throw some extra chicken on the grill, were we in?
I hesitated for a minute when I thought about trying to get everyone home and bathed and in bed after an evening playdate. Honestly, it’s also emotionally hard for me to be on the receiving end of other people’s generosity sometimes. I want to feel like I can do this on my own, whatever this is, rather than take from someone, but thankfully that night dreaming of having no dishes to do won and we hit the road. It was amazing!
I told my husband about the good time we had and how sweet it was for them to think about us and extend the offer. My heart was full and so were our bellies. I was so grateful. Their generosity caused me to rejoice! Yes God loves a cheerful giver, but I’m here to tell you He loves a cheerful recipient just as much. That sweet gesture from our friends excited praise in me.
I was prompted to worship God in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have done that night because their dinner invitation gave me the opportunity. I was grateful for the food and the night absent of kitchen duty. I found myself thanking God for community and the love of another family, knowing we’re all in this together. And when I told my husband, he praised God too.
This is exactly the kind of thing Paul is telling the Corinthians about. “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God,” 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 NIV (emphasis added).
When we give anything -- our time, our money, our effort -- a sort of holy chain reaction happens. When we reach out in obedience to be generous, our giving causes someone else to praise God.
But even though God has supplied each of us with occasions to give, sometimes we feel like we can’t. We don’t see what we have. We only see what we lack. The good news about this truth is it moves the spotlight from us (as the giver) to others (as the receivers).
"WHEN I FIND MYSELF CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT I DON'T HAVE OR WHAT I CAN'T GIVE, THIS SCRIPTURE REMINDS ME IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT ME."
It prompts me to look for what others need and let that guide my giving, instead of only searching myself for what I think I can afford to let go of.
Giving and receiving are both good and both a part of God’s plan for our lives. He wants us to grow and be blessed. As gift-givers most of the time our tendency is to keep quiet, content to watch God move through our generosity. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But as receivers, it seems we can’t help but declare the kindness that’s been shown toward us! Our natural response is to be thankful and praise God. And this natural response has supernatural consequences. Our worship propels others in worship and it just keeps going. So much so that you might say receiving is the gift that keeps on giving.