Seeking the greatest blessing
We all know the joy a gift can bring. Children sometimes make gift lists (one of our sons once helpfully divided his list into “reasonable” and “unreasonable”) in the hopes of things to come. As we grow, our idea of the perfect gift grows with us. At some point, however, we discover a joy greater than receiving. As the Lord Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35b) At first glance, this seems counter-intuitive. Surely receiving is to be preferred! Yet, we see the truth of the Lord’s words everywhere we look.
There are those who come into a local church with the singular desire to receive. They avoid any kind of regular commitment or service. They choose only those meetings or events which suit them. One might think—on a natural level—that they would be the happiest people in the assembly since they constantly receive and never have to give. But quite the opposite is true. They are usually among the first (and most frequent) to criticize, complain, and take offense. If you want to find those who truly enjoy the assembly, you’ll have to look somewhere else: to those who give.
What about in the family? Again, our age has no shortage of spouses whose primary goal in marriage is to be on the receiving end. Sacrifice for their wife or husband isn’t high on their priority list. They can (and do!) list the ways their spouse should change in order to accommodate them. Requests, demands, hints, bargains, strategies—all designed to get their own way. And yet, no matter how much they “get,” few people are more miserable.
Furthermore, the child who gets everything he wants; the child who has discovered that he can bend his parents (or his friends) to his will, provided he makes a big enough fuss—is he a happy child? Is he a blessed child? There’s a reason we call such children “spoiled.” Unless this spirit of receiving is quenched when he is young, he is in for a bleak, lonely, frustrating life.
No, the Lord Jesus was, as always, perfectly right when He told us that giving was the path to blessing and happiness. We understand this as soon as we love someone. Don’t get me wrong—I’m deeply grateful for the various works of fine art that my children have made for me over the years—treasures that will never grace the Louvre.
But my real joy is to give to them. Not necessarily in the terms of the possessions that our society is obsessed with. There are far more important gifts to give. But seeing their faces light up is a far greater present than anything that comes in wrapping paper. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. But is even giving the greatest good? Let us take one step higher. Above gifts, beyond giving, there is the great, incomparable Giver. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jas. 1:17)
Nobody has ever given like He has. Think of the recipients of His gift: we give to those we love; He gave to His enemies. Or the extent of His giving: His giving never ends—He showers us with “grace upon grace” (Jn. 1:16). But eclipsing all, there is the cost of His gift—a gift that outweighs heaven and earth: His only begotten Son. A gift to fill our hearts with joy and blessing for all eternity. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)