From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Have you ever entered into a holiday season or an anniversary hoping that the gift you got is at least as nice as the gift someone got you? We never want to be on the end of giving less than we get. It feels embarrassing or irresponsible. Conversely, if we’re on the other end, we can feel like we worked harder or sacrificed more or had greater generosity than someone else, leaving us feeling bitter or irritated.
Though sometimes for good and sometimes for ill, I do believe human beings have a strong sense of fairness as it involves daily relationships and situations. We want to know, "Am I getting as much as I’m giving in this relationship?" And additionally, I hear plenty of Christians ask the humble question, "Am I giving as much as I’m getting?"
Despite how commonplace it is, this sort of scorekeeping isn’t particularly helpful as we walk in faith with Jesus or in authentic relationships with other people.
Life and faith are not zero sum games. But because we are humans, we really want them to be. We especially want things to be balanced so that we never feel indebted to anyone or anything. That feels like weakness.
We need to stop spending all this energy trying to balance life as if it's a checkbook. Consider how this "balanced budget" approach often manifests itself in our faith:
I am living my life to try to repay Jesus for all that he has done for me.
Problem: That’s not living in grace. That’s living as if you hope one day you’ll look at Jesus and say “we’re all square, right?” That’s not how a loving relationship with God works. A healthy faith lives in an ever deepening pool of grace, leading us to rest in God’s goodness and live accordingly, not try to claw our way back out.
That person did something really kind for me, so I need to repay them for it.
Problem: No, You don’t. You need to receive it graciously and allow it to refresh your spirit. That’s it.
Of course, we can selfishly take this in the direction of, “nobody has done anything for me, so I’m not going to serve anyone,” but that’s clearly not a disciple's attitude. The more common challenge, especially these days, is pride in the opposite direction. You may not feel like you have much to give anyone else at this season in life, so you feel bad asking for help or receiving more than you're giving.
Jesus certainly talks about receiving much and giving much, but there’s never a tally. We can’t experience grace or become gracious if we are trying to track this stuff. Jesus simplifies it.
Freely you have received. Freely give.
How freeing is that?? (See what I did there?)
There is no tally. Life is about learning to give and receive because we have learned the power of grace. Sometimes we’re in need— emotionally, or physically— and it brings another person joy to be able to come alongside us in support. We should welcome that. And some times we notice another in need, and because we’ve received grace, we eagerly desire to show love and compassion and service to them. We don’t keep track of how many times this happens. We just do it. Some of you may have the capacity to be givers right now. You’re privileged during this pandemic, and although it's been brutal on everyone, it hasn’t been quite as brutal on you as some. It’s your season to give abundantly, without looking around and feeling like someone owes you something.
And some of you are going through the ringer right now. Crisis after crisis is hitting you. Finances are tight, or medical issues are constant. Maybe you’re breaking down because you’re completely on your own, or trying to parent, or trying to do virtual school, or anything in between. It’s your time to receive willingly…. maybe even ask for help, and not keep score. You just receive because you know that we all are in need of grace sometimes, and this is one of God’s ways of showing it to us.
Or maybe you aren’t even feeling like you’re in need, yet someone wants to serve, to help, to care. Perhaps it’s time to receive that with joy, so that the giver can also experience the joy of giving.
So what’s on tap for today? Giving of yourself in some new way because you can? Receiving love and care from others because they can? Resting in God’s grace?
It could be giving, it could be receiving. Just do it freely.
Jesus, teach me to live in and out of grace today, and experience the complete freedom of life with you.