Community is learning how to receive. Last Monday, I talked about the broader issue that Community Is Threatening. Today, I want to focus on one side of that coin, the receiving within the context of community. Because, while we generally know we need some sort of community, we don’t understand that receiving is just as important in this setting as giving. Without the recipient, to whom do we have to give?
We equate worth with giving. If you’re anything like me, what you have to give others is what you have to offer in community. Therefore, the amount you have to give is your social equity. It defines what you’re worth. I hope you’re seeing the flaw in these characters flashing before your eyes. If this is true and we believe God to be the giver of all good things, then we are doomed to worthlessness forever and we should just end it. However, this is patently not the case and we should rejoice in this fact daily. We are not judged by what we have to give as receiving has an intrinsic value as well.
“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment…Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon [the Pharisee], ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.'” – Luke 7:36-38,44-48
Even Jesus accepted being served. In this case, the woman was giving everything she had of value and in a way even below servants. But Jesus understood the value of receiving in this moment. He understood that while He came to serve, He also needed to give us an example of receiving.
In receiving, we give others the pleasure of giving. We all need to give. However, we need people who can also receive, otherwise there can be no giving. Then, we are denying our souls what they were meant to do. Yes, we were made to give and give until it hurts. But we need to receive so that we do not become selfish in our giving and we allow others to experience the same joy.
In receiving, we acknowledge that we are not God. We do not have an infinite store within us from which to keep giving. We need to receive to refill on the very grace that we so desire to spread around us. God uses others’ giving in our lives to refresh our ability to do so. Otherwise, He knows we will only burn out as many have and are continuing to do so.
As I also said a month ago, community is about both give and take. Without one aspect, the whole system is broken. Without one aspect, we become broken in how we relate to the world. This is not how God designed life. We need to receive so others may give. We need to receive so that we can continue to give. Finally, we need to give because we are not God and He is the reason we can give in the first place. So today, take that opportunity to simply receive and receive well. Community is about learning how to receive.