Giving and Receiving
There is a line in the Bob Dylan song “Forever Young” that says, “May you always do for others and let others do for you.” These words reflect a good sentiment, and one that is found in scripture. Galatians 6:9-10 says:
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We should be taking opportunities to help other people, both Christians and those who are not Christians. Special attention is given to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we should do good things for anyone who needs our help. We are told that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Those who have riches are told to be generous with those things:
Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:18-19)
Doing good works in this life is part of serving God and will help us reach eternal life. We can never do enough good works to merit our salvation, but it is clear that God expects us to do good things in service to Him and to other people. If we sit around and do nothing, He will not be pleased with us.
There are many things that we can do for others, and different situations allow for different actions. Giving money or gifts, preparing food, cleaning houses, babysitting, opening our homes to guests, sending cards, and taking time to pray are some things that we can do to help. We can give of our riches and of our time. Doing things for others is rewarding in many ways. Paul tells us that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Though he talked a lot about giving and sharing, Paul also found himself on the receiving end sometimes! He and Silas accepted the hospitality of Lydia (Acts 16:15) and of the jailer in Philippi (Acts 16:33-34). It seems that Paul stayed with disciples in many places that he traveled (Acts 14:28, 20:6, 21:4, 21:16). While he was in prison, there were people who visited him, helped him in his work, and took care of his needs. Paul spends most of his writing focused on spiritual things, but he does express gratitude toward these good people who helped him through difficult times. A few examples follow:
Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. (Philippians 2:25-30)
Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. (Colossians 4:7)
Paul was even willing to ask for help when he needed it:
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:9-13)
Jesus himself accepted hospitality and gifts:
And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mark 14:3-9)
It is hard for some people to accept help from others. But, we need to realize that sometimes we are the ones who need to be receiving. God has given us families, both physical and spiritual, to help us and support us. We help each other. That means sometimes we give the help and sometimes we receive the help. Jesus would not deny the woman with the costly oil the opportunity to serve him. We should not let stubbornness or pride deny our brothers and sisters in Christ the opportunity to serve us! How can good works be done if no one will receive them?
The song referenced earlier says, “May you always do for others and let others do for you.” Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens…” The bearing of burdens, both spiritual and physical, goes both ways in our relationships. We give when we are able to give, and we receive when we need to receive. It is an arrangement that results in blessings for all of us and “fruit that abounds to your account” (Philippians 4:17).