Gracious Giving and Gracious Receiving
Posted by Chris on July 10, 2008
One of the things I’ve learned in the last two years is how to be a gracious receiver. It’s almost, if not equally, as important as being a gracious giver. I know that behaviorally I’ve improved in this area, but what does that mean? And why is it important? I plan to figure that out in this post.
My informal definition of a gracious giver would be one who gives generously and without (superfluous) qualifications. They give, without regard to the amount, or whom, or for what purpose, or the reliability/trustworthiness of the receiver. So what does it mean to be a gracious receiver?
First, it is not to be the recipient of something from a gracious giver. I am calling a gracious receiver a person who receives things in a gracious manner. The gift can be bestowed from a generous person or a spiteful person or a person with an agenda. In fact, a giver with bad motives provides unique ways to graciously receive.
Second, they are someone who assumes the best from the giver. If you are worried that someone may be giving you something in order to trick you, perhaps you refuse, but politely. But in many cases, you can still receive. Perhaps the person wants to put an unfair obligation on you– I think it is okay to accept the gift without accepting the obligation if it is not spoken– or to accept but say, I am not going to do ____.
Following on that, they accept without conditions. If someone is being deceitful, don’t tell them that you’ll only take it if they are not doing ___. They’ll either lie or take back the gift in anger. Graciously receive! In the words of Paul in Romans 12:20-21, “If your enemy is thirsty give him something to drink; in doing this you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Another reason to accept without conditions is to honor the giver by allowing them to have that unadulterated, pure joy of giving, in the same way that a giver should not place expectations or qualifications on a receiver.
Fourth, they accept without regard to the amount. There are exceptions for extreme amounts, or things a guy might offer a girl (the girl refuses in order to signify her refusal of him), etc… but in general, don’t refuse based only on the amount. We don’t always understand both the relative value of things to other people or the significance of a gift. A tattered, worn book could represent a lazy gift from a friend or the sacrifice of a treasured heirloom from someone you just met. Culturally, this becomes even more important as if you travel to other cultures with a strong emphasis on hospitality and gift-giving. Take the food, sweets, and tea being offered (my experience in India). If you think it’s proper or necessary, give money with the same insistence before you leave (or if you have the opportunity, reciprocate what was given). Try to understand where people are coming from.
Fifth, accept without regard to whom. I remember a guy giving me a book the first and only time I met/spoke with him. I have friends I’ve known for a while who may have never given me anything. The point is, be thankful and gracious for a gift. Neither expect it nor spurn it. Don’t question the motives of a giver just because you don’t know them well or based on the hearsay of others. If it would be silly of them to think that by giving a gift you are indebted to them, then act like they’re not silly. And if they are, your gracious receiving will be an opportunity for them to grow as a giver.
Sixth, don’t get into hierarchies. If someone gives you something, it doesn’t put you below them or above them. It may in their mind, but it does not in mine or the Lord’s or objective reality.
I could probably think of some more things but I’ll stop there. I’d like to list a few more exceptions. I do think that trust is a valid thing to consider. Don’t take stolen goods– I have made this mistake, in a way (drove a stolen vehicle). Don’t enable blatant copyright infringement (Oh, you have that CD? Man, I want that. “I’ll burn it for you.” Oh, well, I should be a gracious receiver, so, Sure!). Girls, please be careful with any nice thing that any guy ever offers to do for you. Don’t be a nag about it but be wise and don’t be afraid to say no, just explain that it’s not personal but that you’re careful about that. If the gift is something like “help moving out”, ask another friend to come along.
Why is this important?
God loves a cheerful giver. I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to say that cheerful receiving honors God. Our giving is an expression of worship. Receiving can be also. The parable of the soil refers to the receptivity of the human heart to the gospel. In the rocky soil, the seed could not put down root. In weedy soil, it was choked out. On the road, it could not sprout. But in fertile soil, it bore a plentiful harvest. Be the same in your life.
Being fertile soil for receiving doesn’t just mean receiving well, but it all goes back to giving. Bear fruit 5, 10, 100 times what you receive! I realized recently that the reason I’m finally able to receive graciously much of the time, without hesitation, is that I’m much more likely to give without hesitation. I don’t think consciously about how I hope others receive from me, but I know that it’s okay for me to be blessed by someone if I’m being a blessing.
If you have a problem being a gracious receiver, I will dare to say that there is likely some weakness in the area of being a gracious giver. In my life, it tends to have a trickle down effect by age and income. People older than me, and/or those who make more money, take me out to eat, invite me over for dinner, etc… I in turn take out people younger than me to eat, or give food away to poor people in my neighborhood.
If you are giving graciously, experience the liberty to receive graciously. If you are not giving graciously, do that first without any expectation to receive. It has its own benefits.