The Gift of Receiving

gift“’Tis the season…” is one of the most common phrases we hear during the Christmas holidays. By the way, why do we only use “’tis” this time of year? It’s a perfectly good contraction. I think I’ll start a trend by using it more often. ‘Tis trending now!

Sorry, ‘twas a rabbit trail. Anyhow, we often complete the phrase ‘Tis the season” with “of giving.”  For believers, it makes sense, since we’re celebrating the greatest gift that has ever been given. It’s a good practice to regularly contemplate all that we received from God when He gave us Jesus. Here’s just a cursory list: abundant life; eternal life; salvation; forgiveness; mercy; grace; peace; purpose; righteousness; freedom; joy; hope; wholeness; love; acceptance; an inheritance; adoption; access to the throne of grace; God’s Holy Spirit – those are just gifts that I can think of from off of the top of my head. There are so many more!

All Christians, everyone who accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, have received all of these and countless more. As Jesus told His disciples, “Freely you received…” (Matthew 10:8).

But have we really “freely received” all the time? I know many who struggle with receiving, in this season or any other. Several people – clients, friends and family – come to mind. Some have tried to justify their reluctance to receive by quoting Jesus’ words that Paul recounted – “…it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That’s true, of course, but Jesus didn’t mean that receiving is bad or sinful or selfish – unless we make it so with our attitudes and actions. In fact, if we refuse or reluctantly receive a gift that is being offered, we can hurt or offend the giver, or at the very least make it awkward for them.

I might be oversimplifying things, but I think the main reasons we find it hard to receive are either pride or shame – which, in essence are two sides of the same coin, since the focus is on us, and not on the giver. And since neither pride nor shame are loving motives, how can they be something that Jesus intended when He said those words?

Whether it’s a gift under the Christmas tree, or something else at some other time of the year, I can think of at least two “gifts” that some of us struggle to receive. Here are some thoughts that have helped me to receive them.

The Gift of Compliments

Talk about having two minds! At times I find myself looking for compliments, dare I say even craving them. At other times, when someone does compliment me, I feel awkward and embarrassed. Two thoughts have helped me to gain my equilibrium.

First, Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.” The Holy Spirit gently uses that verse to convict me when I’m seeking the approval of others to compliment me. At the same time, the verse seems to give me permission to “let” someone else praise me. It doesn’t say we are to refuse them. Actually, I get annoyed when I try to compliment someone and they don’t receive it. I don’t want to annoy others by doing the same. So this verse provides a good balance.

Second, I remember what the beloved writer and public speaker, and survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom said when people would praise her. She explained, “When people come up and give me a compliment…I take each remark as it if were a flower. At the end of the day I lift up the bouquet of flowers I have gathered throughout the day and say, ‘Here you are, Lord, it is all yours.’” Isn’t that a beautiful word picture? It has helped me to be more gracious when receiving a compliment.

The Gift of Help

Here’s another area of frequent struggle for me, and perhaps for you as well. The “problem” is that I actually do need help in many areas because of my disability. So, being raised to be independent (and being the controlling sinner that I am) I want to do things myself as much as possible, which often makes it difficult for me to receive help in a godly way. Again, two thoughts help me in this ongoing battle.

Galatians 6:2-5 tells us that we are both to “bear one another’s burdens,” and also that “each one will bear his own load.” Rather than being contradictions, I think those Paul’s two commands are complementary, and provide another example of living in balance. We are to take responsibility for our lives…and I believe that includes receiving help from others when we’re overwhelmed.

C. S. Lewis provides another insight into receiving help in The Four Loves. In his discussion of agape love, or “Charity,” Lewis writes,

“Suppose yourself a man struck down shortly after marriage by an incurable disease which may not kill you for many years; useless, impotent, hideous, disgusting; dependent on your wife’s earnings; impoverishing where you hoped to enrich; impaired even in intellect and shaken by gusts of uncontrollable temper, full of unavoidable demands. And suppose your wife’s care and pity to be inexhaustible. The man who can take this sweetly, who can receive all and give nothing without resentment, who can abstain even from those tiresome self-depreciations, which are really only a demand for petting and reassurance, is doing something which Need-love in its merely natural condition could not attain.”

In other words, this husband, by graciously receiving his wife’s help without complaining or demanding or feeling sorry for himself, is showing her the highest, supernatural form of love. I think of Lewis’ example often when I am tempted to refuse help. I realize that I have the opportunity to show someone agape love by accepting their offer to help and by receiving it with grace and humility.

How about you? Do you sometimes struggle with receiving compliments or help? Are there other areas where you have difficulty receiving? The apostle Paul tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” You may also know that the Greek word for cheerful can also mean hilarious. During this Christmas season of giving, I invite you to join me in making an effort to give others the gift of receiving and become a hilarious receiver!