I was recently asked, “Doesn’t it bother you that with all your education and endeavor, you were payed less than someone delivering a package to your door?” If in fact that is the case, the answer is no, recalling Jesus words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Although the person asking the question seemed puzzled.
Granted, it is pleasant to receive. As a child, I was especially appreciative at Christmas time for the gifts awaiting me. I opened the packages with great delight, and played with my toys throughout the day. It served as yet another evidence of my parent’s love and care.
I have enjoyed relatively good health. Consequently, I was able to participate in team sports until early in my thirties. After which, I focused on tennis until my early sixties, and with jogging since that time.
I have also been blessed with good friends. In this regard, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born of adversity” (Prov. 17:17). In good times and bad, to rejoice or grieve—as the circumstances warrant.
God’s longsuffering elicits special appreciation. Which recalls Francis Thompson’s vivid imagery concerning The Hound of Heaven:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrithine ways
of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him under running laughter.
From those strong feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace.
This constitutes a short list, meant only to be representative.
Then there is the blessing associated with giving. Seemingly my earliest memory concerns the time we moved diagonally across the road to our new residence. I was three years of age at the time, and wanted to be of help. Mother suggested that I carry some of my toys, but I wanted to assist with something that belonged to the family. Whereupon, she gave me a vase on the spur of the moment. It was heavier than anticipated, but I managed to deliver it without mishap, along with the feeling of having contributed.
My siblings and I were assigned chores. Such as drawing water from the well, and bringing in wood for the stove. This also fostered in me a sense of achievement and sharing.
I was large for my age, and would on occasion intervene on behalf of someone who was being abused. This sometimes resulted in physical conflict. Mother, concerned lest I be injured, threatened: “If you don’t stop, I’m going to kill you!” While she meant it metaphorically, it struck me as being irrational. Needless to say, I did not bring this to her attention, but attempted to be more prudent in my behavior. While feeling blessed that I could help someone more vulnerable than myself.
Years later, mother observed: “I can’t remember that you ever did anything wrong.” I was surprised by this, but concluded that love has a short memory. Since I had no difficulty recalling many things I should not have done, and good things I refrained from doing.
Fast forward. One day I was emerging from an excavation site in Israel, when I observed a youthful shepherd caring for his flock. Just then several intimidating young people came along. They began to make demeaning remarks about the shepherd, and seemed hostile. Without saying a word, I stood beside him. They continued on, as did I once they had left. But not before the shepherd and I had exchanged friendly nods. It was an experience I relish.
Seventeen of my former Nigerian students matriculated to Wheaton College, where I taught for an extended time. When feeling the pressure of living in a foreign culture, they would on occasion seek out the sanctuary of our home. One of them observed, “When I think of you it is not as an American but as a Nigerian.” I felt blessed.
Given this line of reasoning, it caused me to reconsider the way I had thought concerning God’s supreme gift of his Son. I had previously dwelt on what Kazoh Kitamore details in his Theology of the Pain of God. In this regard, he allows: “God in pain is the God who resolves our human pain by his own” (p. 20). Qualifications aside, I quite agree.
However, I had overlooked the blessedness God experienced in doing so. He acted with our best interests in mind. He achieved thereby what we could not have accomplished on our own. He thus set a precedent for those persuaded that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
How can we serve? In countless ways. By providing for those in dire need. Those whose survival is problematic.
How can we serve? By making some constructive contribution to life together. By cleaning up road litter. By civil discourse. By conscientious labor.
How can we serve? By proclaiming the good news. Undeterred by threats and violence. In cooperation with others. In the light of Jesus’ anticipated return.
In these and other ways, to experience the greater blessing. That which comes from giving, rather than receiving. Given Jesus’ appeal and promise.
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