Do you want to be a giver or a taker?
Part of our souls leap to say, "I want to be a giver." But another part of our souls says, "Wait a minute. What if I give too much? What if I get taken advantage of?" So we hesitate. According to Adam Grant in his book "Give and Take," every human gathering has givers, takers and matchers.
The attitude of a giver: "What can I do for you?" The attitude of a taker: "What can you do for me?" The attitude of a matcher: "I will do for you what you do for me."
Takers can start out as givers who get burned. They gave, and someone took too much from them. If the wound is big enough, the giver will switch teams, vowing never to be taken advantage of again. Or, takers can be people who simply decide to let greed rule their lives. They believe, "He who dies with the most toys wins."
Most of us, I think, would like to be givers. What stops us? Fear. We're afraid we will be taken advantage of, or we will not have enough to take care of ourselves, or what we give will make no difference. As a result, we slide down to be a matcher. We watch to see what others do, and we decide we will match this. If we see Bob put $40 in the offering plate, we will too. If Mary volunteers, I will too. If Tom stays late at work, I will too.
Matchers occupy the middle ground. I've seen many couples who have a "matching" marriage. Family is a series of verbal contracts: "I will if you will." The problem with matchers is someone else has to go first. If two matchers get disappointed with each other, the marriage freezes.
A true giver gives from an internal source. His or her joy is found in helping someone else win. A true giver doesn't give to be recognized. For a true giver, life is not a competition. The joy is not in the size of a financial gift or the number of hours they serve; the joy comes from seeing tomorrow being different than today.
So who are you?
God wanted his people Israel to be givers, but they were takers. They wanted God to bless them, protect them and serve them. If they had time, they would try to do a little something for him. Funny, they denied they were takers, even while they robbed God of respect, resources and reign. If you are quick to deny you are a taker, chances are good you are one.
When Peter asked Jesus if he was to forgive his brother seven times, he was thinking like a matcher. Matchers keep score. In God's kindness, he recognizes many of us start here. That's why Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given to you." Being a matcher is better than being a taker, but Jesus also made it clear that we could do better. "If you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that."
God's goal for you is to be a giver, but not to be a giver who gives out. It only makes sense to give if you believe in an infinite God who has infinite resources to give you. I believe God showed us he is an infinitely giving God when he sent Jesus, the infinitely pure one, to forgive us with infinite grace. When you truly live in His grace, giving is joy.
Imagine a family of givers! Wouldn't you love to have a family like that? Imagine a church filled with givers! What could be done? Imagine a city filled with givers! Wouldn't you love to live there?
It starts with you. Will you trust that God will pour into you, so you can pour into others?
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at email@example.com.
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