“It is better to give than to receive,” goes the old adage. But is that always the case?
Methodist theologian William Willimon offers a different perspective for us to consider as we approach Christmas. He wrote
The Christmas story is not about how blessed it is to be givers but about how essential it is to see ourselves as receivers. We prefer to think of ourselves as givers—powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable people whose goodness motivates us to employ some of our power, competence and gifts to benefit the less fortunate. Which is a direct contradiction of the biblical account of the first Christmas. There we are portrayed not as the givers we wish we were but as the receivers we are.
Giving is good. Generosity is good. But I think Willimon is right that it is often easier to be the giver than the receiver; it is a much more secure place for us to occupy.
We are all receivers. As we celebrate the Incarnation, it is good to remember that all we are and all we have is gift.
[With thanks to Inward/Outward from whom I received the Willimon quote.]
“We prefer to think of ourselves as givers—powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable people whose goodness motivates us to employ some of our power, competence and gifts to benefit the less fortunate.”
Possibly, although the personal ‘gifts’ mentioned, ‘powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable. . . ” are seldom constant – ebbing and flowing as life’s unpredictable journey moves us.
Would we not be better to celebrate those who ‘give’ of themselves each day as expressed in the Prayer of Saint Francis, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is . . .” welcoming them when encountered “as the receivers we (they) are?