James A. Washington

Haven’t we all been taught at one time or another that it is far better to give than to receive? Christian or not, kindness and goodwill are thought to be wonderful attributes of all of God’s people. Forgiveness and mercy are considered staples of the Christian diet. The result, we believe, is a reaping in this life or the next of God given rewards for a life spent giving with no hidden expectation of receiving in return.

That all sounds good until somewhere in your world, life happens. At a very early age we learn that life is cruel, unpredictable, and our kindness is generally taken as weakness and our generosity viewed as foolish. Life and the people in it will use you if you let it/them. Pain often comes from an attempt to help somebody who doesn’t give a damn about you. It is the reason many a good person goes bad.

People will protect themselves against this kind of personal anguish. We learn how to survive in spite of disappointment. We all eventually learn to navigate a world in which we’ve come to believe nice guys do finish last, takers succeed and cheaters, well, they cheat and win.

Now here comes scripture with the edict that giving is always better than receiving. As a matter of fact, it is a Christian prerequisite. I thought about this and came to the following conclusions. You don’t know what kind of mother you’ll be until you have children. You don’t know what kind of friend you’ll be until you become one. You cannot know the depth of your ability to love someone until you are head over heels caught up in it.

You can’t really know yourself as a human being until you share your life with others, without fear, without restrictions, without conditions. For many, including me, this is tough duty because life is so cruel. However, only by being a friend can you know true friendship. Only by giving love unconditionally can you understand unconditional love. Only by being a blessing can you know being blessed.

It doesn’t appear to work any other way. If you go through life just existing with a self-imposed set of criteria, then guess what? That’s what you’ll get in return: love and friendship with strings attached. You block countless blessings if your prayers include no one but you and they echo the trials and tribulations of your life only.

God really shouldn’t have to ask what have you done for Him lately, when He asks so little of you in the first place. Just act like you know who He is and who we are in relation to Him. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” John 12:13.

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