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Should We Give Help but Not Receive it?

Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

During dinner some days ago, my father lamented about how times have changed. It used to be that bosses care about their workers even outside of work. When my grandfather worked at an architecture company, his manager would always visit the family every Lunar New Year, bringing some money along and asking if our family needed any form of help.

There was one time our family needed help building a house, and the manager sent some workers to help out. My grandfather initially refused this help. My dad shared that people back then often thought that accepting help would cause one to “lose face”.

I cannot help but think that nothing has changed today. Many people are willing to help others but unwilling to accept help.

Most of us have been brought up to give selflessly. A willing heart that gives selflessly, without expecting anything in return, is exceedingly noble. I used to think like that.  When I was in school, I would gladly help my classmates. However, it was very difficult for me to ask for help from others. This persisted even after I graduated. Many times, deep down inside me, I knew that I needed help. Yet I was unwilling to ask for it. In fact, when others actively lent a helping hand, I found it difficult to accept.

Should we encourage this behavior? Does God desire us to give help but not receive it?

God teaches us that we should carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The Bible also reminds us that in Christ, we are all members of one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Helping each other involves two parties. If everyone refuses to accept help, who can we then help? How can we then live as a body of Christ?

 

Pride lies behind the refusal for help

God wants us to joyfully give and joyfully receive. So why is it that people find it so difficult to receive? If you ask me, the reason behind this difficulty is pride. Yes, you read that right.

We are often unwilling to admit our own weaknesses, and we are afraid that others may see them. In order to protect this fragile ego of ours, we refuse to accept help. I realized this around three years ago when I started thinking more deeply about the topic of giving and receiving. Looking back, I realized that my pride was my Achilles’ heel and the underlying reason I was unwilling to seek or accept help.

Trusting God is difficult when you refuse help

Giving without receiving makes it difficult to trust in God. God wants us to admit our utter brokenness so that we can completely cast our burdens on Him and trust in Him. The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) How can we surrender and trust in God fully if we deny help and rely on ourselves completely? We cannot know God genuinely if we do not admit our brokenness.

I remember one time when I showed up for a fellowship gathering burdened with conflicted emotions. At the time, I was deeply fatigued and though I could hardly bear it, I put up a strong façade. When it was time to share, I planned on talking about minor things that did not matter. However, an inner voice reminded me that I needed to come before God in truth. Just like that, my defense was demolished. I cried my heart out in the presence of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I confessed that I needed help. I confessed that I was not the least bit strong.

I am deeply thankful that God broke me, allowed me to see the dangers of pride, and allowed me to be built up again in His truth through His community of believers. Now, I often come before God in my helpless state, crying for His help. I know that I have nothing. I can do nothing. If not for God’s strength, every step I take would be difficult.

I also seek help from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever I am feeling troubled by life, I not only ask them to pray for me, but also seek their advice. The love and help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have blessed me with has helped me to feel the faithfulness of God. I also deeply feel the close connections I have with other members of the body of Christ.

 

Joyful acceptance sets us free

When I lay down my pride, I can finally be free of my struggles. When I joyfully accept help, I experience brand new freedom. I admit that I have weaknesses and I am inadequate. It is only when I completely surrender that God can have full control over my life. When I obey His will, God can demonstrate His strength in my weakness.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God wants you to have this freedom as well. Are you willing to lay down your pride that God may take control of your life?

How God Taught Me to Give

Written By Ching, Singapore

I am surrounded by giving people. Their tireless generosity is inspiring to me, and I want to emulate their giving spirit.

My mum and her siblings are some of the people who have showed me what it looks like to give often and consistently―they exchange gifts almost on a weekly basis! They remind me of Romans 12:10, which teaches us to love our spiritual siblings affectionately and to “outdo one another in showing honor”.

I also have friends who painstakingly craft handiworks with love, spending much time and effort in doing so. I know others who buy gifts consistently and make it a discipline to give often. There are also people working in the social sector who give so much that it hurts, even though they are sometimes repaid with scorn and complaints instead of gratitude.

I have also met churches, led to be generous by their leaders, that often give and bless their fellow church members and the immediate community that they love, serve, and reach out to. The beauty of generosity on a broader scale is magnificent. I have peers in Thailand that have shown me what hospitality looks like by receiving me with sacrificial love. I have mentors who have modeled for me long-term generosity over decades, and I have seen their long-suffering.

Yet despite having so many examples of generosity in my life, I have still found it difficult to live out this generous lifestyle. I learn all I want, but still end up never doing anything, nor wanting to. I wasn’t much of a giver; I was more of a taker.

In 2014, I decided to experiment with giving often.

Throughout that year, I found myself wavering between extremes. There were days when I did not want to give at all, and I became self-indulgent and “gave” to myself. Other times I gave out of selfish motives. What began as an experiment to try being more generous, revealed how selfish I was. I began to realize that generosity was not a natural human instinct. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we are simply not able to give freely. Through my selfishness, I saw how truly our hearts need Christ.

As I began to comprehend the amazing grace Christ gave us―even dying on the cross for us―I began to understand that we are called to be a part of His mission and, as His representatives here on earth, to exhibit His generosity. Generosity comes only from the Holy Spirit’s work within us, Christ’s life in us, and the love of God our Father overflowing in our lives. In short, generosity is a work of God in our lives.

In 2014, I slowly learned to be more generous. God helped me learn lessons from people around me. He also gave me a workplace with a very generous culture.

I began giving random presents to colleagues and friends. Then I started intentionally treating friends on their birthdays. Then I was modeling generosity, week in and week out, for those I shepherd. Soon I realized that my generosity needed a more intentional effort, and that planning was required.

I began budgeting. The principle of “Give, Save, Spend” helped me become more intentional in generosity. From small, spontaneous trinket-gifts, I moved on to slowly saving up and giving consistently so that others can be blessed over a longer period of time. A group of friends and I combined our resources so that we could help fund the school fees of one of our friends who was studying to go into full-time ministry.

Generosity has become a part of my lifestyle. I was giving consistently and intentionally. But I also realized that sometimes we give without love.

In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul says “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Even if we give away everything, but do it not out of Christ’s love, we gain nothing.

Nothing.

Serving in the helping profession, there have been moments where I failed to show empathy and genuine concern for the people I had been tasked to care for. Instead of giving out of love, I found myself giving because I wanted to be validated, which ultimately led to disappointment and guilt.

Our generosity needs to be an overflowing of Christ’s love for us, and also an intentional message about our Father’s love.

You might be thinking, “But I am no Mother Teresa,” “I am not rich,” or “I am not some noble helper”. But the people who have inspired me by their life of generosity were from all walks of life, from the very poor to the very rich. Being generous is a consistent intentional lifestyle.

A beggar I’ve met in a subway station once shared with me how every day of the week, a different Christian will befriend him or cook him dinner or speak to him. He also told me how some of them have even become his friends, and visit him as often as they can.

Christian generosity must be different from what everyone else does. We have the message of a very rich King who emptied himself and became poor, died, and rose again, so that we can be adopted into His family.

Get to know your daddy God intimately. Knowing our identity as a child of God, we can then reflect our Father’s generosity to all.

Why Didn’t I Give More?

Written By Charles Christian, Indonesia

Once, while my friends and I were having dinner, a skinny boy in a worn-out t-shirt and shorts approached us to sell tissue paper.

Initially, we didn’t respond as we weren’t interested in buying any. But the boy, probably about 10, kept standing there, with a hopeful look on his face.

Finally, one of my friends asked, “How much is the tissue, brother?”

“5,000 rupiah,” he said.

She whipped out a 5,000 rupiah note (USD $0.40) from her wallet and handed it to the boy. After giving her a packet of tissue, the boy moved on to the next table.

It then occurred to me that the tissue in my car was about to run out. And since the price of the tissue the boy had quoted was the same as what I had paid the last time I bought tissue from a shop, I went up to buy a packet from the boy, just before we left the place.

As I traveled home that day, I couldn’t help but think about the boy.

How many rejections had he faced that day? How much money did he earn? Did he have enough to meet his needs? What if I had bought five packs instead of one and given him 50,000 rupiah?

Perhaps that would have allowed him to take a break for the day. Or perhaps it would have motivated him to work even harder, knowing that his efforts would pay off. Or better still, it might have led him to believe that there are people in this world who care enough about people like him.

Suddenly, I regretted that I had bought only one pack of tissue from him. At least he was trying to make a livelihood by honest means instead of begging. If I had thought about all this earlier, I would have been able to show love to someone who might be desperately craving it.

Then I realized the ugly truth: The reason why none of these thoughts had crossed my mind earlier was that I had been too preoccupied in my own needs. All I had considered was: Did I need the tissue? Was the price he quoted reasonable? What’s in it for me?

My focus had been on the “I”. It was only when I took time later to evaluate my actions that I considered the boy’s needs instead.

God wants us to consider the needs of others before ourselves. The Bible tells us in Philippians 2:3-4, “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

In fact, Jesus goes one step further to identify himself with this group of people, saying that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). What this means is that any opportunity to give what we have—our time, energy, or money—to someone in need, is an opportunity to serve Jesus.

Shouldn’t that inspire us to give more, and to give often?

What Really Happens When You Give More Than You Receive

We know this saying well: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

But why? Isn’t that counter-intuitive? After all, when you give, you deplete your own resources—be it physical, monetary, or emotional. Isn’t it much better to receive instead? Who doesn’t like receiving things like presents, attention, and approval?

A plain reading of Jesus’ words may lead us to think that giving is good and receiving is bad. But that’s not the case. What Jesus meant was while it’s blessed to receive, it’s more blessed to give.

Those who have received much, give much

My heart doesn’t always agree with this sentiment, though. There have been times when I’ve found it hard to give my money, energy, or time to God or to someone else, especially when I felt I barely have enough for myself.

Of course, I’m not saying we need to give away everything we have, regardless of our circumstances. There’s certainly a place for us to care for ourselves and to store up our own resources. There’s “a time to gather” and “a time to keep”. (Ecclesiastes 3:5-6) It’s not wrong to save up for a rainy day or to care for oneself.

However, I’ve learned that my struggle to give may sometimes reflect a deeper heart issue: I’ve failed to realize how much I’ve already received and am not content with what I have.

When a sinful woman came to the house where Jesus was having dinner to anoint Him (Luke 7:36-50), Jesus said she loved greatly because she had been forgiven of her many sins. He then said, “But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

When I find it hard to give in love, is it because I’ve forgotten how much I’ve received from God? If so, I must find out and address what causes me to forget the tremendous grace, love, and forgiveness God has already given me.

I realize that when I’m aware of how much God has given me, I’m more willing to give to Him and to others in love. Only when I truly understand that God has richly provided me with everything I need for my enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17), can I be “a cheerful giver” who delights God’s heart. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Here are some other lessons I’ve learned when I chose to give.

 

1. When everybody gives, everybody receives

It’s simple math. If everyone insists on receiving without giving, then who would each person receive from? But if everyone chooses to give to each other, then everybody receives. It’s a win-win situation, isn’t it?

 

2. Giving helps us to learn contentment

“Do I really need this?” is a question I ask myself whenever I struggle to give. A few years ago, I made a commitment to God that I wouldn’t purchase any more new shirts, trousers, or shoes unless I really had to. One look at my wardrobe told me I had enough; wanting more would come from the desire to look good to win the praise of people—a desire I should be putting to death. (Colossians 3:5) If I want to learn to steward my money wisely for the kingdom of God and learn that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), then I cannot succumb to such desires.

In doing so, I can channel my money to areas where there are real needs. There’s an old woman I’ve befriended who makes a living by selling tissue paper on the street. By monetary standards, she’s poorer than I am. Yet I’ve seen how she generously and joyfully gives to others in need, though she doesn’t have much herself. In this aspect, she is rich, and her example inspires me to be more giving.

Sometimes, I was able give her some money without thinking twice. But there were other times when I found myself reluctant to do so because I felt I didn’t have enough. During such moments, I asked myself, “Do I really need this?” That’s when I realized that regardless of my need, her need for the money was definitely greater. After all, what did I have to lose? I could just spend a bit less on food that month, for instance. And each time I gave to her, I experienced the joy of giving.

 

3. Giving helps us to trust God for His provisions

Whenever I feared that I might suffer lack after giving, God would come through for me in some way with His wonderful, timely provision. It may not always happen in the way or timing I expect, but I’ve seen His faithfulness time and again.

This brings God’s promise in Malachi 3:10 to life: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”

My heavenly Father is Jehovah-Jireh; He knows what I need, and He’s faithful to provide for me. Therefore, I can “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” trusting that “all these things will be given to [me] as well.” (Matthew 6:8, 32, 33)

 

4. Giving enables us to know God more

I believe God calls us to give because giving enables us to know Him better. The Father gives us His Son (John 3:16); He gives us to Jesus (John 6:37); and He gives us the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13; John 14:26). The Son gives us the revelation of the Father (John 14:6-9; Matthew 11:27) and He gives us reconciliation and access to the Father by being our peace (Ephesians 2:13-18). The Holy Spirit gives us reminders of Jesus’ teachings (John 14:26), taking what is of Jesus and making it known to us (John 16:14); and He gives us different kinds of spiritual gifts for different kinds of service to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

When we give, it helps us to know God’s heart more, just as participating in an activity our loved one is passionate about helps us to understand them better. Indeed, God’s Word tells us that our primary aspiration in life is to understand and know the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV) and to know Jesus by sharing in the fellowship of what He has gone through. (Philippians 3:10)

 

5. Giving is a gift from God

Have you ever worshipped God in song with such fervor that you knew with certainty that this was the very reason why you were created—to give Him praise? I have. During such moments, I felt as though I had fulfilled my purpose in life and was filled with overwhelming thankfulness that God created me so that I could enjoy this wonderful gift of being able to gladly worship Him.

Imagine being loved so much by someone but not being able to give back in any way to this person. How miserable that would be! Part of the experience of love is to be able to give back to that person who loves you and has given so much for you. I’m so grateful to God that He has created me with an ability to give back to Him in some way—whether it’s in songs of praise or in my time, money, attention, or energy.

I understand, therefore, that giving not only honors God, but in and of itself, it is God’s gift to us. God doesn’t need us to give to Him, but we experience joy when we give to Him—and He delights in us reciprocating His affections. It’s like how we would enjoy giving back to our parents for all that they’ve given to us—though they don’t need us to.

 

For all these reasons, I understand why Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Of course, there’s a time to give and serve, and there’s a time to receive and rest. We have to exercise our God-given wisdom to practise wise stewardship of our resources.

But giving is ultimately a joy and privilege God has given to us. So we don’t have to give; we get to give.