Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. I think I know what he meant. I think he was talking about being able to put oneself in the backseat, share, and meet the needs of others over the needs of self when called for. He was talking about the beauty of a selfless, generous spirit. More than talking though, he was encouraging and exampling that very thing.
Still, on this Christmas morning, I find myself wanting to argue with Jesus a bit. Don’t get me wrong. I was blessed greatly in the gifts I managed to give. My wife and son and daughter are all pleased with the thought and effort I put into their presents and the selections made. But frankly, I find the gifts received to be a greater blessing. A CD of my daughter singing and playing acoustic versions of some of my favorite songs. An abstract painting from my son. A stack of books to entertain, challenge, and educate me from my wife (why is my wife always trying to educate me?).
So I sit here quietly thinking that while it can be more blessed to give than to receive, it can also be more blessed to receive than to give. In fact, often–even usually–we must receive first to have anything to give. Life, love, material blessings–whatever we seek to give, what have we not received of others first? You see what I really received from my family wasn’t things at all. It was a bit of themselves. It was the grace to share in their lives. It’s the receiving of that which gives me whatever power I possess to give some of it back, because truly one can never give that which one does not possess.
No doubt Jesus spoke truth in its context, but I see it wasn’t the whole truth. The whole truth is that giving and receiving are partners in a dance of blessing. We need both the generosity of spirit to give ourselves away, and the generosity of spirit to receive others humbly and graciously as they give themselves away. Some days I am better at one than the other, and some days I am not especially good at either. Today though, I know the blessing of both, so I suppose it doesn’t matter which one is greater. What matters is joining the dance while the music is playing.