I believe this is a dilemma many, if not all, will experience as a member of a church. We come to church looking to receive healing for our hurts, comfort for our pains, consolation for our sufferings, intimacy for our loneliness, merriment for our griefs.
But how does this fit in with Jesus’ words, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? Or “freely you have received, freely give”?
It is easy to dismiss this as taking Jesus’ words out of the context in which they were originally used. I acknowledge this somewhat, but it is a fitting summary of a principle that extends through the New Testament. Just as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many, we are to do the same in imitation of the One who has given us much.
Easier said than done.
I don’t wish to make this lengthy, but I think many fail to fully comprehend the basis on which this principle rests. Note that the order is ‘freely you have received’, therefore ‘freely give’. Let’s apply this to daily Christian living. The first act of receiving is the moment of conversion, where God gives us faith to receive the gift of forgiveness, and righteousness and adoption through and in Jesus Christ. The first act of giving is seen in the passionate service new believers often offer up to the church.
Here’s where it breaks down. You run dry. The fire burns out.
You run dry because you too easily abandon the fountain of living water, the One who says, whoever drinks the water I offer him will never be thirsty again. Your fire burns outbecause you too easily quench the flame of the Spirit by taking your eyes off Jesus. The Spirit burns anew whenever Christ is seen. Your tree becomes barren because you fail to heed the words of the One who says, “Abide in me and you will bear much fruit.”
I think we see Jesus too often as the way of salvation in the sense of him being the entrance. But the way of salvation is long and arduous. It is not a casual stroll through the park. It is a hike through the jungle. But this jungle has a well beaten path. Don’t let your sense of adventure deceive you into thinking you can beat out another path for yourself. Only Jesus knows the way out of the mess we’ve found ourselves in. Follow the guide – this One not only knows the way, but made it himself.
Analogies aside, I believe we must ensure that we as Christians remain gospel-centered. Receive daily the blessings that Christ secured on the cross for us. Freely we have received these blessings, freely we must give. But give only that which you have received. There’s nothing else of value you have to give. It’s rather amazing that the only object of value we have to give to others is free, but that is the way of God. The best things in life do not come cheap – they come free, at the expense of Jesus.
It is important to remember this principle – give only that which you have received! But before long, you suddenly realise, as you give and give and give that which you have received from Christ, you understand what he meant when he said, “The water I give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We have in Christ an immeasurable supply of riches to fill up the poverty of others.
The final question you might then ask is, “So what exactly have we received that we are to give?”
We have received Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises of God find their amen. If God gave up his Son for us, how will he not also graciously give us all things? If so, he will equip you with everything good to do his will, to work in us what is pleasing in his sight. The gift is Jesus. To give Jesus to others is to point them to him. Not to our wise counsel, or powerful ‘worship’ experiences, but to the message that is foolishness and weakness to the blind and perishing. It is to be a faithful witness of the message we have heard, in word, and subsequently in deed.
You’ll quickly find it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. Because the ones who give Jesus are the ones who truly come to know the One they have received.