When someone gives you a gift do you automatically feel like you must do something to reciprocate? This is something I struggle with.
The other day I was working in the yard and a young man stopped by to ask if I needed help. I wanted to receive the help but I also had an inner struggle because this is not his responsibility, also I went to the questions about whether I should pay him for helping me or not. If I didn’t would I look cheap or unappreciative? If I did, would he be offended because he was just trying to help out.
It seems that everyone is looking to get these days. You see tip jars just about wherever you go. “Nothing is free” seems to be the prominent message of our society. So when someone offers to give, we automatically start thinking about how we can return the favor.
God commands that we give (see Bible references below) and in giving He will bless us. HE will bless us, not the person we gave to. We shouldn’t always expect to receive blessings back from the ones we bless. Rather, we can expect blessings from God. When we give we can expect to be blessed, but we won’t know where the blessing will come from. Often it’s from a very unexpected source.
What about receiving? Not receiving a gift with gratitude but instead pushing the gift way literally or figuratively (by your words of “you shouldn’t have.”) is actually pretty selfish when you think of it. You’re dismissing the thoughts and effort that they put into the gift. And putting the focus on yourself, how you feel, what you need to do in response. Can you allow it to be about them and not you?
Feeling obligated to return the favor can make you feel bitter towards the person who gave you a gift. If someone gives you a gift and their motive is to get something in return, then they have a lesson to learn. Their motive is to manipulate you on some level into deeper relationship or to get something in return. It’s not your responsibility to respond in the way that they expect. Can you respond from your heart?
So bottom line, I guess I’ll take my mother’s advice to “let my conscience be my guide.” Originally when she said this I replied “my conscience won’t let me receive anything for free.” It was a quick statement meant as a joke but I do believe there’s some depth to that remark. Why can’t I receive good things without feeling obligated? Do I not feel worthy of someone’s thoughts, time, effort and resources? Do I have a need to prove myself to others through doing and giving?
I want to think more on these questions and figure out the why’s behind them. I want to feel comfortable receiving help. And focusing on thanking and appreciating the other person rather than thinking of how it’s going to make me look if I don’t return the favor. I know that when I give from my heart there’s a joy there because I want to bless the other person. I want them to be happy, to know that I love them. I’m not looking for something in return.
My pastor, Joel Brooks, Jr. puts it like this, lets say I gave you the object you desire most, say a top-of-the line vehicle and you felt overwhelmed by the gift. So in order to be able to receive the gift you give me $500.00 for the car, which cost me thousands of dollars. It would actually be an insult to me. Because now you didn’t receive a gift, you got a good deal on a really expensive car. You disgraced (took away the grace) of receiving a beautiful gift that you would never have been able to pay for.
If we can’t receive earthly gifts, how then, will we be able to receive God’s greatest gift to us, His Son? We can never buy God’s love, we can only receive it. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. We can never do or give enough to earn Gods love or Jesus’ life, we have to receive it through grace and by faith.
I’m going to try to rest in my friends and in the gifts and blessings they provide me. I’m going to receive the help from others as blessings from God. If I can return the favor with a cheerful heart and I have the means to, I will. If I can’t I will show my gratitude to them through words and actions and I will pray their blessings will come to them from God himself.
Do you struggle with either giving or receiving gifts? Please share.
Here’s what the Bible says about giving:
2 Corinthians 9:7
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:6
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.