I’ve no desire to end the week on a rough note, but there’s a question I’ve asked the Lord, one that comes up from time to time, as it must: Am I a giver or taker? This is not a question that is fun to consider, because the answer is found in God’s view of my life.
Giver or Taker? Taking Can Be Subtle.
The run-up to my salvation included years of deep depression. I spiraled deeper and deeper into self-hatred, pulling away from all around me. I was a vortex of selfish misery who could suck the life and joy out of a room without effort. There was no real difference between me and a raging narcissist who sees no one but himself. Different branch, same tree. Giver or taker? No brain strain on this one.
A man called the office once and asked to come visit Shulamite Ministries. He said that he wanted to meet Martha because while he was alive, he wanted to meet as many of the spiritual greats as possible whose writings and teachings had touched his life. My spirit was disturbed by all of this, but it took me a while to hear why exactly. This man was a collector of testimonies and wisdom in the same way that some people collect autographs or celebrity memorabilia. Not cultivating or valuing his own vineyard, he focused on the vineyards of others—the more prosperous, the better. Giver or taker? A little less cut and dry to my earthly eyes, but the Spirit sees clearly whether I do or not.
Most disturbing of all is when someone ostensibly generous is a taker. A natural giver can be a taker in God’s eyes, because if He isn’t doing the giving, then it isn’t truly giving. “There is none good, no not one.” Any natural inclination to give must be sanctified and made holy, otherwise it’s just death. I’ve received gifts that took my joy, my hope, my self-respect… They were ‘gifts’ of taking. We’ve all received a gift like that at some point, and we’ve all given a gift like that—whether we know it or not. God alone can say whether we are a giver or taker because we don’t understand all the ways that we are capable of taking from others.
Giver or Taker? So Many Ways to Give!
It’s easy to talk about money when we talk about giving, but money is just one of many ways to give. In the Loving God booklet series, Martha says, “Don’t tell me what you love, tell me where you spend your time and I’ll tell you what you love.” Where do I invest my life? Where do you invest your time? Where do we invest our hearts? When God pours into our lives and fills our spirits through a church or ministry or pastor or teacher, do we reciprocate that giving with our own? In addition to an offering, we can give through prayer, notes of encouragement, gifts of time and energy, and so much more. When it comes to spiritual nourishment, am I a giver or taker?
There are as many ways to give as there are to take, and moving from giver to taker is as simple as choosing. We are not doomed to be forever takers, though there are other factors at work. I’ve never met a taker who wasn’t rebellious of authority, and I’ve never met a giver who wasn’t committed and submitted to authority. When I am surrendered and under authority, giving is as easy as breathing. And when I am flouting authority, I can do nothing but take. All of which makes this seemingly simple question more revealing than I’d like, but it bears asking all the same: Am I a giver or taker?
It is more blessed to give than to receive.