Friday, February 15, 2013

Generosity and Gratitude

I often find myself on the receiving end of the generosity of others: my first computer was free, my favorite camera lens I've been allowed to use for free, right now I'm about my 6th day into a two week cross country road trip, which will cost me less than the cost of living alone, recently I was offered a cellphone upgrade at a quite unbeatable deal, most everything I would need is provided to me by others..

Thinking of all this, I am reminded of statements such as "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11). Or, "...Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. Yet these but imperfectly represent His love. ..." (Steps to Christ, 10.3).

As a recipient it can at times be difficult to appreciate what is really gained (by the receiver), or lost/given up (by the giver) in the non-necessary transaction. It's easy to undervalue generosity, and not appreciate the sacrifice of others. When appreciated, even limitedly, however, it can be quite an inspiration to return the kindness, and pass the same onto others.

It's interesting.. By definition, generosity is altruistic. Disinterested benevolence was a term used once. And yet, as a recipient, any responsible human will feel a necessity to somehow even the score - even if paying it forward instead of paying back. The absence of wanting to even the score somehow is the root of entitlement. At any rate, no functional relationship on any level can exist where one person does all the giving, and another does all the receiving.

If you don't believe it, think about loaning money to a friend who ends up unable to pay you back. Even if no hard feelings are harbored against him whatsoever, the receiver will start feeling uncomfortable in the presence of the giver. He will feel guilty at his inability to pay back the loan. Unless the score can be settled somehow - forgiving the loan, or some form of repayment, the two will begin to drift apart. Adding a servant/master element puts a strain on a friendship. If the receiver, on the other hand, is indifferent to his inability to pay back the loan, it will seem as though he is just there to take advantage of the giver.

So here's where the interesting part comes in. How does it work to have a relationship with God? This is where it is easy for us to err. See, with God it works the same way. He sent His son to die for us, to give us something we could never earn on our own, and which we could never repay. But just like the phone a friend is giving me, even though the cost would be more than I could reasonably afford otherwise, and even though a financial return would hardly mean a thing, I still have a duty to be grateful, and, also, to pass on the same sort of spirit to others through my actions. If I do not do these things, I am bordering on an entitlement mentality.

Are we really thankful for the gift God has given us? Do we have the slightest clue how much we have gained, or how much He paid? Do we really return thanks? Do we pass it on?

In John 14, Jesus twice says that those who love Him should keep his commandments. This is not a burden imposed on us, but rather a direction on how to release that stored up love and gratitude that should exist as a result of our gratefulness, which comes as a result of realizing what God has truly done for us.
In John 13:34, 35, Jesus gives the following directive:  "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

If you truly are thankful to someone, is there anything which is too much to do in expressing that thankfulness? Why do we seem to always be looking for corners to cut? Why does duty seem like such a difficulty? Maybe it's because we don't truly understand what God has done for us - we don't really understand what we have gained, and what he lost.. Perhaps we should spend more time contemplating the sacrifice of God on our behalf.

There are times when I go to write something up, and get to my conclusion and think, "wow, where did that come from?" This is one of those times. Really, I write for my own benefit, and if anyone gets anything of value out of it, that's an extra. I have definitely benefited from writing this piece already...

Thank you all for taking the time to read this, may God be with you. Remember Luke 7:37-50 and Matthew 18:23-35.

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