In my limited years of parenthood, I've discovered that you don't have to teach kids to be selfish. Grasping and guarding is a default mode. Giving and sharing, however, is something that requires not only persuasion and education, but also demonstration.
I was reminded of this essential the other day when I offered to play catch with our 1-year-old Jacob who recently began testing out his throwing arm around the house. He was happily throwing a ball toward nothing in particular only to retrieve it himself and throw it once again. (I love the simplicity of little ones' entertainment needs!) When I picked up the ball Jacob had just thrown in order to play catch with him, he fussed and complained at first, thinking I was there to end his game rather than play it with him. When I tossed the ball back to him, his wrinkled face lit up with a renewed eagerness as we carried on with our 1-yard game of catch. That is, until big brother Jadon entered the scene and snatched the ball away. Again, our youngest fussed and complained until I corralled his older brother and convinced him to throw the ball back and try to play with his little brother. Though it only took a couple minutes for that wrong to be righted, it was long enough for Jacob to revert to guarding and protecting his treasured toy, refusing to throw it back to Jadon. Jacob's sharing mood was shut down the moment he felt pick-pocketed, revealing a simple reality: taking begets grasping. On the other hand, could it be that receiving begets giving? In other words…
WHEN WE'VE BEEN GIVEN TO, OUR HEARTS OPEN UP TO GIVE TO OTHERS.
can I give?
This cause-and-effect principle is what Jesus appealed to when preparing to send out the 12 disciples on their first missionary effort: “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8, NIV). Paul understood this as well, and when stirring the believers in Corinth to be generous givers, he first reminded them that we all have been blessed receivers:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9, NIV).
Whether we realize it or not, we've been blessed with wealth and riches -- the eternal treasure of the grace of Jesus! Sometimes I excuse myself from giving because of my perceived lack relative to the abundant resources of others around me. But as a recipient of God's saving grace through Jesus, Paul wants me to remember that I've been made rich through Christ's poverty. In Jesus, I really do have it all. I may not have the material toys or treasures this world regards as riches, but in Christ I have something better. And if I have much, that means I have much to share and give.
How much can I give?
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Cor. 9:8, NKJV).
According to the Bible, our ability to give is the direct result of having received God’s gift of grace. Our capacity to give, then, is directly related to our capacity to receive God’s grace. How much can I give? As much as I can receive of God's grace. This is about way more than just giving financially, but giving of ourselves to God and others through our time, talents, possessions, attention, etc. Maybe you've wondered if you have time to give to your neighbor, the skills to give to a church ministry, the energy to share with your kids after a long day of work. We're always called upon to give for good causes, but we hold back for one reason or another. Sometimes we hold back because we underestimate what we have to offer, as though the size of our contribution will make little impact. Or maybe that hesitancy is more the result of being uncertain about whether we'll have enough for ourselves, whether we'll ever get the ball back so to speak. Whatever the case, remember that our capacity to give corresponds to our capacity to receive God's grace. If God is to make "all grace abound" to me, then apparently He can supply grace to abound through me. Did you notice the comprehensive scope of the promise quoted above? All grace, always, all sufficiency, all things, every good work? Paul has no doubt in his mind about this receiving/giving reality, and he wants us to be certain of it too.
The next time we feel like we have little to give, let's re-evaluate how much we've received. The next time move toward guarding and grasping, let's lift up our eyes to the One who threw us the ball first. Oh Lord, make us better receivers of grace, so we can be better givers of the same!