A little while ago, some friends and I went out for lunch. After a few hours of dining, laughing, and discussing a wide variety of topics as we often do, it was time for all of us to go our separate ways.
As we went out the door, we all dug into our purses and pockets to pay.
Then, one of our companions stopped us and said, “I’d like to buy lunch for you all.” With much protest, we refused his offer. However, he is a persistent man, and told us to put away our money, finishing with this gentle rebuke:
“Don’t deny me the gift of giving.”
And he proceeded to pay our server an amount that generously covered all of our meals. Nobody objected.
I still cannot forget his words, nor the way he said them.
Throughout our lives, we are often taught and re-taught the importance of independence. The importance of standing on our own two feet, being proud of our accomplishments, and ensuring that we look out for ourselves before anyone else.
Or, at least, that’s what the world has taught us.
But with those seven words, spoken so softly, I realized something.
In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul makes it clear that we’re given spiritual gifts so that we can help each other.
By holding on to our fierce independence, by being prideful or stubborn, and by trying to do things on our own, we deny others the gift of giving.
We deny them the gift of spending their time, their money, their talents, and their efforts.
We deny them the chance to enter into our lives and make a difference.
We deny them the gift of being a source of encouragement or a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on.
We deny them the chance to be a blessing.
The thing about people is that often, if they offer you something, they don’t do it lightly. They’ve often thought it through, or planned it out, or given some consideration to the gifts and talents they have been given, and how they can offer them to you.
Or, maybe they haven’t, and just have a little cash burning a hole in their pocket which they’d like to spend on you. Or maybe they have a little time to spare in their schedule and would like to spend it with you.
Either way, they’re offering you something. A part of themselves.
However big or however small it is, to deny that offer is to deny that person the gift of giving.
Paul told the elders in the church of Ephesus that they should remember the words of Jesus…
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35,NLT)
And I think he’s right. It is more blessed to give than to receive. When we spend ourselves, somehow we end up more blessed than whoever we are spending ourselves on.
But the thing is… how do you give something to someone who isn’t willing to receive it?
In order for others to be blessed by giving, there has to be a receiver – someone who is open and willing to be blessed.
In the book of Mark, Jesus talks a lot about denying ourselves. Lately, God has been speaking to me a lot about denying myself in the light of letting go of my pride and my stubbornness, and really connecting with those around me. And in order to do that, I have to be open and willing to both give and receive.
When we spend ourselves, in whatever context that is, we do two things. One… We bless others by giving them what they need. And two, we become blessed because of our willingness to deny ourselves… rather than denying others.
So the next time someone offers me a gift, whatever it will be… I’ll think twice about whether my response will be denying myself (and my pride…) or denying them the gift of giving.
What will your response be?