From Taker to Giver
Chances are, your closest relationships are with people who offer you something of value. That is human nature! We are reluctant to enter into commitments that are one-sided and require more from us than we receive in return.
Over the years, I have watched this human trait destroy numerous relationships. Marriages have fallen apart because one spouse feels like there are more withdrawals than deposits; they reach a point where they close the marital account and leave with whatever is left. Many children have sought validation from somewhere other than their parents because Dad and Mom don’t understand the value of spending time with their child(ren). Our churches are now the same way; two or three generations ago it was nearly unheard of that people would approach their choice of a church with a consumer’s mentality: What style of music do you sing? How long are the services? Does the preacher confront my lifestyle? What kind of programs do you offer my children? Is the worship experience exciting? Do you have a softball league? You see, in our “self-enthroned” culture, we have given ourselves permission to be people who are “conditionally” connected. It’s nothing new but it has clearly grown in its extent.
Solomon observed this trait: “Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts. All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him” Proverbs 19:6-7. He notes that those who seemingly have much to offer draw the biggest crowd. If a man is known for giving then he will regularly find himself surrounded by those who are takers. Everybody is his friend because he clearly has the greatest benefit package. To be his friend is to become one who receives and, consequently, this person is never alone.
Contrasted with him is the man who has nothing. This man is portrayed as being poor. Maybe he has no money. He likely has no influence or power. He might be unattractive or unpopular; perhaps he is lacking in education or intelligence. Those who would consider a relationship with him will not receive anything of perceivable value. It might even be that this man is annoying, abrasive, unspiritual or offensive. Whatever he is…there he is all alone and “he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him.” This poor man may very well be seeking a close friendship, but people are too involved with the man who has more to offer to even consider the man who lacks. So, the generous man is conditionally connected and the poor man is continually rejected.
These verses expose a beautiful and ugly truth regarding the modern-day Christian; they reveal how unbalanced we have become. Every one of us was once a poor man who had nothing to offer God. But a Generous Man named Jesus Christ, left the glories of Heaven to befriend us. He offered us grace while we offered Him nothing but need. He granted us forgiveness when we offered Him disobedience. He poured out compassion when we held up our weaknesses. He extended to us another chance when all we had was a record of repeated failure. He was passionate when we were indifferent; He was patient when we ran from Him; He loved us with a sacrificial love even when we doubted Him. He knows us—our poverty, our depravity, our indecisiveness, our selfishness, our bitterness, our anger, our spite, our fear, our self-love—and yet He still moves ever closer to us. He does this not to receive, but to give and give and give.
And yet many Christians willingly receive the blessings of God while remaining deaf to the cries of other poor men. Our world is filled with social outcasts—people who have little to nothing to offer us and they, too, are seeking a meaningful relationship. I wonder who would be surprised if you reached out to them. Is there a person in your life that desperately needs somebody to connect with them unconditionally? You may easily uncover a dozen reasons why they are not worthy of your time and investment, but is there something in your heart that says, “Reach out to them?”
Be brutally honest with yourself and take inventory of the relationships you foster. Are they more about what you can get (even if there is a mutual benefit) or are they about what you can give? Remember the truth Jesus spoke: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Let us follow in the footsteps of our giving Saviour. Find some poor soul whom you have wrongly and arrogantly believed has nothing to offer you and befriend them. Offer them the same grace and goodness that Christ offered to you. This is unconditional love and we must become skilled at it if we are to ever be like the One who loves us.
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:4-5