By Kim Seville
We all know that “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and there is no disputing this truth. God blesses our efforts to help others through giving, so long as it is done with an attitude of joy and humility. But what I have encountered in discipleship relationships is that often people who are doing well in the area of generosity still struggle in their ability to receive from others. For example, I was recently talking with a friend of mine who had received a scholarship to go through the DownLine program. She was starting from scratch and working hard to establish herself financially. I was shocked when she informed me that her first financial priority was to repay the scholarship money that she had freely received.
Certainly there will be some who read this and think of repayment as a noble goal. There may be times at which this is appropriate and there may even have been hints of nobility in her thinking, but the key issue in her heart was the difficulty of receiving any financial assistance. Her upbringing taught her that she shouldn’t have to receive help from others. My friend is certainly not alone. Anyone who has grown up in our individualistic American culture has been exposed to this myth that hard work should eliminate the need to receive help from other people.
This lie not only reveals itself financially but in many other contexts as well. Married couples struggle in secrecy, addicts compulsively hide their vices, and we all as Christians struggle to receive mercy from the Lord. Our minds may know that we need help from others, but our cultural upbringing screams, “No, don’t expose yourself. If you just work a little harder, you can beat/do/stop this without anybody knowing!”
But God has designed us to live in community. We are to share with each other financially (Acts 2:45), mediate for one another in times of quarrel (1 Cor 6:1), and carry each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2). Most often when we read these directions, we are reminded of our role to be generous, be mediators, and be burden bearers. And rightly so. But my encouragement is that we also pray for the grace to overcome our cultural programming and see ourselves biblically – as people who will inevitably be recipients of help throughout our lives. And this is good! It’s God’s design.
Allowing others to help us requires humility and teaches us to be better recipients of God’s grace. It also provides other people with the great opportunity to serve and to be used of God. This in itself is a gift! So let’s be generous in our giving, but just as generous in our vulnerability. Let’s share our needs with the community that is the Body of Christ and watch with gratitude as God blesses our efforts to give and to receive.