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More blessed to give than to receive

By Amy Durrant
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    Interserve staff member Adam Sibley reflects on the power dynamics of generosity and how we might consider receiving from others in order to truly bless those we serve:

    As I anticipate gathering with others to celebrate this Christmas, I’ve been reflecting on these words of Jesus found in the book of Acts, which have always meant a lot to me. I find it an interesting and challenging Bible verse, especially viewed through the lens of welcoming and building relationships with people of other cultures and faiths during this special season.

    I love the way that Christmas draws people together – the special opportunities to welcome others into our homes, to offer a place at our table. Whether welcoming family, friends, colleagues or strangers, Christmas is a chance, for those who are able, to extend hospitality and generosity, to give something without wanting or needing to receive anything in return.

    But if we truly want to bless those we serve, perhaps we also need to consider ways for them to give as well as to receive? We should be aware that, even when our motives are pure, we can create an unbalanced power dynamic if we shower people with generosity without allowing them to share something of themselves in the process. When we share our home, food or gifts with those who may not have these things themselves, we can too easily put ourselves in the driving seat of the relationship. Is it possible that in our own efforts to give, we unintentionally deny others the chance to give generously themselves? Can we do more to let our guests bring something of themselves to share with us? This will look very different for different people and cultures, but everyone has something to give – even simple offerings like a song, a prayer, a recipe or a smile can genuinely be a blessing to us if we are open to receive them.

    Is it possible that in our own efforts to give, we unintentionally deny others the chance to give generously themselves?
    Photo by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash

    Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that you should avoid inviting people into your home or stop doing Christmas in a communal way. This verse clearly states that we are blessed when we receive, but even more blessed when we give. But if we are to truly live out this verse, our Christian life needs to be about more than just what you or I are giving. The Bible clearly calls us to become like Jesus in the way that we share, invite, and give generously to others. But we are also called, like Jesus, to be guests at others’ tables, to value others’ service, to receive their generous offerings in order that they may know the true blessing of giving.

    I hope that many of you will take the opportunity to spend time with people of other cultures, backgrounds and faiths this Christmas – a chance to build relationships, a chance to listen and to learn during this season as we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s be welcoming, let’s enlarge our tables, let’s get extra chairs – and let us also be blessed by opening ourselves up to truly receive, even from those who may seem to have less than we do.

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