Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

The Blessing Dilemma

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!

30 responses to “The Blessing Dilemma”

  1. Hi Steven, good post. I frequently encounter such situations, in other words, as you say, how do we in practicality carry out Christ’s words. In the situation you presented and others similar, I suppose the idea is that when we offer to pay, we are indeed doing so out of love. The hope is that even if the other person wants to pay, he will at least recognize the intention of our heart and take note of it. Though we ended up NOT paying the bill at his insistence, he will by all means consider us to have done so by intent.

    Regarding your closing thoughts about hurting one’s feelings … if we mean well, hopefully this would not be his perception, but sometimes it could be that the other person is too sensitive? Anyway, communication and talking things out could go a long way in settling such issues.

    Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some good points, David! I particularly like what you said about communication. If we can explain where we’re coming from in these situations, that goes a long way 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks Catherine! 🙂


  2. Dear Steven

    Lets look at it from another point of view: The sun is shining for everyone – it gives its light and warmth unconditionally – as soon as we attach conditions to our giving and sharing, then we come into a dilemma, we may find us in a competition: who is giving, who is taking I would even say that between friends, and people who have a similar financial standard – it is not really a matter of giving and taking, but a kind of balance between them – however, if we help poor people, not in order to make themselves feel ashamed of it, but as real human guesture, if we help friends or other people when they are down to give courage to them and doiing it not gain any profit from it, to do it selflessly without any pride, then I would say it is a very noble guesture – something that goes from heart to heart – the sunshine between people which has its root in love…

    Thank you very much for this good example, dear Steven 🙂
    All the best, my friend

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Didi! Yes, balance is an important word, and I think relates to what I was saying about compromise. But you’re right to point out that being generous is different in different situations. Thank you for reading, and commenting! Blessings, friend! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blessings in return, dear Steven 🙂
        Have a great time

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written.

    I had never seen love from this perspective before.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Faith! Thank you for reading, I appreciate it 🙂


      1. You’re welcome, Steven!🙌🙌

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a wonderful post! I run into this dilemma quite often, and I think you make some excellent points.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So pleased you enjoyed the post, Keri! Thank you for reading and for your kind comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful points made! I think sometimes we are blessing others by letting them bless us. I’ll remind my mom jokingly sometimes, “Don’t rob someone of their blessing.” To me, it’s a win win because I’m thankful someone offered to bless me by doing something for me, and by me allowing it I also soak in the blessing. 🙂 Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think sometimes we are blessing others by letting them bless us.

      This is very true, T.R.! Thank you for reading and for your kind comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Steven great post, as always. I myself struggle with allowing others to ‘bless me’ by giving. It’s humbling to be sure.

    On a side note (a completely different topic) I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the idea of “hell”, if you believe in it. Or a link if you’ve already written about it would be wonderful. I recently had a very enticing conversation regarding “hell” and it’s origins in paganism, etc so I’d really appreciate your take on it.
    Kind regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tara!

      Always a joy to hear from you, thanks so much for reading!

      On the subject of hell I can offer you a few posts.

      For an exploration of what the Bible says about hell:

      Three different views of hell:

      For my own thoughts on the subject:

      You’re always welcome to comment or email me with any thoughts / suggestions / criticisms / comments. I hope the articles are of some help!

      Best wishes,


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Steven. I appreciate you sharing those links with me. I have read them and your essay.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, that’s a lot of reading, Tara! 🙂 I hope they were of some use. Thank you so much.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s all quite interesting, yes. Thanks Steven.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. YariGarciaWrites avatar

    I love this! 😊 To me, communication is key. It’s always polite to offer to pay (for example) but… it’s always polite, even when we don’t have the extra cash 😏 So then it’s a matter of receiving, being thankful, and continuing to be a good friend.

    I’ve long ago lost count of who-did-what-when because in my circle of friends, we are all kind to each other in various ways. Whenever the need arises, we just help and support each other. There is never a promise to pick up the slack (or the check!) next time because it just naturally happens.

    Great post! Have a good week,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Yari! You make some really interesting points. I guess when there is a deep and loving relationship or friendship, giving and receiving come more naturally, with less pressure to ‘do the right thing’. But yes, there’s always the need for good communication, even with close friends (I think communication is what makes our relationships work!).

      Thank you for reading and you have a wonderful week too!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. HI Steven! I hope all is well with you. There’s a lot to think about here – so much depends on the motives of one’s heart. Maybe that’s why Jesus said of giving, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”.
    This post reminds me of an encounter I had as a student, 1978, in then Soviet Armenia. Being there was my dream come true. People were poor but so generous and kind. They were overjoyed to meet American Armenians.
    While out in a village, we came across an ‘ice-cream’ man with a small cart. He so wanted to treat us to ice-cream. He wouldn’t take our money, we said no, he insisted. Finally I plunked the money on the cart and left – only later did I reflect on the hurt expression on this ‘ice-cream’ man. I robbed him of the joy of treating us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa!

      That’s an excellent real life example, and for me it highlights the fact that the issue of generosity is not black and white. Cultural differences, traditions, and circumstances can all be a factor.

      Thanks for reading and I hope things are well with you!


      Liked by 1 person

  9. There are so many examples of this. Like Jesus being anointed by Mary, or when he washed his disciples’ feet. Sometimes we have to serve others and sometimes we have to be served by others. Knowing which time is which is the real trick…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s such a good point. Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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