Is it truly more blessed to give than to receive? In this post I’d like to offer a few thoughts on this dilemma by recalling a situation I’m sure many of you will have encountered in daily life.
Love is a word at the heart of the Christian faith, as exemplified by the two commandments that Jesus said are the most important:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)
So we are to love God and love our neighbour. But how does one’s obedience to the second of these commandments, to love our neighbour, play out in the theatre of life?
One scripture that provides some guidance is Acts 20:35, in which Paul quotes Jesus as saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. The context of the passage is that Paul is speaking to the leaders of the church in Ephesus (while on his missionary travels), giving examples of how to live with humility and serve the Lord.
But how does Jesus’ statement, recalled by Paul, apply to us today?
Let’s look at a practical example. Say you’ve gone out for a meal with a friend, and when it’s time to pay the bill a conversation must be had concerning who’s going to pay. You offer to pay, believing that the gesture would demonstrate kindness. Your friend responds by offering to pay, as they wish to be kind to you. At this point the blessing dilemma arises:
Is it more of a blessing to the other person for you to pay, or to let them pay?
It seems to me that the only way to ‘win’ in this situation is to reach a compromise. For example, one person can pay but with the agreement that the other will pay the next time you meet up. Or some other compromise can be struck; perhaps you split the bill or the one who doesn’t pay for the meal agrees to pay for the taxi home.
I suppose the main point I’d like to make in this article is that while we may feel generosity is instinctively an act of giving, we always have to be aware that if we are too generous, we may actually be hurting the feelings of others by making them feel guilty. Wherever possible, compromise seems to be the best way to be as loving as possible.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below!