Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gracious Receiving

"It is more blessed to give than to receive" provides us with the words of our Lord (via Paul, Acts 20:35). We always use these words to encourage people to give, whether to the church or the poor or to our friends (especially at Christmas time). We teach our kids to not be selfish an to share their toys with their friends.

But how often do have trouble accepting gifts from others. Whether it's letting someone buy us lunch or pay for a coffee or accepting a large new 50" HDTV that someone wants to buy for you (hint, hint). And that's the very attitude we have to avoid. Manipulating people into giving and then using the excuse that you're helping them be more blessed is not what Paul had in mind in when he wrote to the Philippians (4:17-18):
"Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."
He graciously accepted their gifts even though he didn't need it in order to allow them the joy of giving. God wants us to give so that we become more like him. C.S. Lewis wrote that prayer doesn't change God, it changes us. In the same way, the purpose of our giving is not soley to help the recipient, but to also change us into God's image the way he intends us to be. Christ left all of heaven and came here and gave 33 years of his life all for us. His whole ministry was a gift. He is a giver and being a Christian means being transformed into his likeness.

We teach gracious giving, but we should not deny others the joy they will receive when they give to us. Just say "Thank you" and then pass it on. If you pay them back, then it was not a gift. If you pay it forward, you make the world a better place and at the two of you have been able to experience the joy of giving.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
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