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Self Made Man?

By Anonymous | 10 May 2013

Self Made Man - Art of Giving

This blog is part 4 in The Art of Giving email series. Want to sign up to receive all ten emails for free? Enter your email address here.


Receiving is hard. We’re raised in a world where gaining and acquiring – receiving, in other words – is only acceptable if you work hard and earn it, or if you somehow ‘get lucky’.

Receiving because you’re genuinely in need – when you can no longer rely on yourself – is frowned upon. There is the temptation to feel like a failure; a charity case; dependent.

But the Bible says we’re all receivers, and we’re all in genuine need.  ‘For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.’ John 1: 16.

When I was growing up, I was fairly proud of the fact that I paid my way. I got a job at a young age, learned how to save, and enjoyed spending money on myself and others. I was raised with the Destiny’s Child anthem ‘Independent Women’ ringing in my ears and I was determined to rely only on myself.

So when I became a single mother at the age of 23, and then spent the following three years locked in a cripplingly expensive court case, everything within me fought to try to preserve my pride. I tried to carry on as normal; juggling a job with motherhood, studies, bills, learning to drive and running my own home.

I gladly accepted practical help – it was a blessing to have family and friends around who could babysit when I needed to get an essay written. But financial help? Absolutely no way. It was only when I was faced with a £3000 barrister’s bill and only £1500 to my name, that I began to realise the mess I was in. I was at the end of myself. I couldn’t magic up the money. My self-reliance had essentially counted for nothing, and slowly God began calling me back to a revelation of his generous, undeserved love.

When my friend learned of my situation and offered to lend me some money, my first reaction was deep shame. How did I get to be so in need? Even though I’d be paying the money back, their generosity overwhelmed me in every sense of the word. I accepted because I had no choice, but I was utterly determined to pay back the full amount as fast as I could so that I wouldn’t feel indebted to him. I had been conditioned to see receiving as the worst thing in the world, even though I’d spent many years previously on the flip side – seeing how blessed it was to give.

That legal bill was the first of many.  More money had to be found from more places. But more friends and family stepped in in various ways, enveloping me and my daughter in a type of grace and kindness that left me lost for words. That year, I learned what it meant to accept love, to receive help and to allow God to be my strength.  It was an important, humbling lesson.

It mirrored a truth that’s hard for all of us to accept sometimes: Jesus gave us something we didn’t deserve. It’s something we abuse daily, reject, misunderstand and often don’t even fully recognise. I wonder if some of us grapple so hard with receiving salvation because our pride would prefer us to believe that we can save ourselves? That was certainly true of me. Grace is an incredibly difficult thing to comprehend, and sometimes it takes our very lives to be shaken out from the edges before we can start to receive it.

The Bible teaches that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and that’s true. It’s definitely harder to receive, but there’s blessing in that too beyond simply receiving whatever it is you’ve been given. Arguably it’s impossible to know how to truly give, unless you’ve first learnt how to receive.

The challenge:

So today consider how you receive. Is it graciously, with thanks? Is it reluctantly, with pride?  Is there an area of your life where you couldn’t bear to be dependent upon others?  Ask yourself why. Consider also how you give, bearing in mind the potentially strong emotional responses of your recipient. Are you giving sensitively?

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