By: Dr. Julie Henderson, CVM Associate
The Bible has so much to say about giving. …you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NASB) Almost everyone who was raised in a Christian home, and many who weren’t, remember learning this admonition to give to others. But not as many learned the grace of receiving. The act of receiving another’s gift with grace is something that many of us stumble on. But when we refuse another’s gift we deny them that blessing that comes with giving.
I think it is a matter of pride – who wants to ask others for help? When we first decided to go to Mozambique we were tempted to fund ourselves because we were not accustomed to depending on others for support. We had savings and in addition to that we sold the vet clinic which gave us even more. And it seemed the “noble” thing to do. We calculated that we could probably manage without asking for help from others for at least a few years, maybe longer. But thankfully we received wise counsel to the contrary. Self-funded missionaries tend to be “loose cannons” if you will and can easily lose their way. And of equal importance, we would be denying others the opportunity to give to the ministry. By denying them the blessing of giving we might also be denying ourselves of the blessing of their prayers. We would be entering the “front lines” of a spiritual battlefield and would need a strong body of prayer warriors. So we humbled ourselves and gracefully received the gifts and prayers of many.
But it was even harder and more humbling to receive gifts from the poor in Mozambique. So many times people we had helped in some way would say “thank you” later with a portion of their harvest. It happened the first time when Teresa brought me about twenty pounds of beans from her garden. Teresa was a single mother of four children who also took care of her blind grandmother. The previous year she had been struck by lightning which burned the flesh off the soles of both of her feet. After the hospital turned her away, I helped her by treating her injuries with medicinal plants and she healed beautifully. She was the first of many to follow who opened the door to that ministry.
Teresa lived about four miles from our home in a tiny hut. She was a subsistence farmer and was so poor that even buying essentials like cooking oil, soap and salt were difficult for her. I knew how her family lived because I had spent about two months treating her in her home. So the day she showed up at my door – after walking four miles on her scarred feet– it was very difficult for me to receive her gift with grace. The beans she was giving me could be the difference between going hungry and having enough later in the year when her food stores would be low. Every fiber of my being wanted to refuse her gift and tell her to keep it for her family. But instead I swallowed hard and received her lavish gift with as much grace as I could muster. It was a valuable lesson for me and the beginning of a friendship. The relationship could deepen because the giving went both ways. Had I refused her gift I would have denied her the blessing of giving and also put up a barrier. The barrier would say, in effect, “I am greater than you”. But by receiving her gift I said instead “We are equals and can have a real friendship now.”
Of course the greatest gift we can receive is the free gift of salvation given by Jesus Christ. But many stumble here and miss the mark because we are too prideful to receive His lavish gift with grace. No, we would much rather earn our salvation. But salvation is a gift that is too precious to be bought. We can only receive it when we are at the end of our rope and come to Jesus as spiritual paupers (Matt. 5:3).
The reason salvation is free to us is because it cost God everything. It cost the atonement of God as the Son of Man – He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21) It cost our Lord the agony of Gethsemane and the cross of Christ. Oswald Chambers wrote “The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God.”  We cannot earn our salvation; we can only receive it with grace. But we can, in thankfulness, give back to God our own lives to use for His divine purposes. And in this mutual give and take we become His friends. Greater love has no one than this – that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends…(John 15:13-15)