Right before the second semester of freshman year of college began, I received an alarming phone call.
“You need to have last semester’s bill fully paid before you may enroll in upcoming classes.”
The Financial department from Ozark was letting me know that I was not eligible to continue my education. I still owed them several hundred dollars and had just about a week before the courses I very much intended on taking began.
I didn’t have the money. As most students do in the United States, I was relying on student loans to pay my way through college. Unfortunately, as I had learned from this phone call, the amount I had received wasn’t enough to cover the debt I had incurred.
I spoke with my mom, but she also wasn’t able to cover the cost. She told me she would figure something out, but, for a while, I was in full panic mode. I had loved my first semester and was eager to get on the road back to Missouri and see friends and dig deeper into the educational process I had begun. Now, with all of that potentially vanishing because of a seemingly insurmountable few hundred dollars, I was worried, to say the least.
However, the bad news from Ozark wasn’t the only call I’d get that day. My mom called back and told me that the bill had been paid, and everything was okay. One of my best friend’s parents, when my mom reached out, gladly squared my account with my school.
I couldn’t tell you why, but I believe there is a tendency held by many in this culture to have a difficult time accepting the generosity of others. It may be a result of pride in the ability to “pull one’s self up by their bootstraps” (an impossible metaphor, of you think about it) or a fear of the vulnerability that indebtedness may bring. Whatever the source of this hesitance may be, we often shirk from allowing others the opportunity to come alongside us in our need.
We fight over who gets to pay the bill at dinner. We take on more loans and crushing work schedules rather than come to community sources of assistance. We may think down on those who often rely on the charity of others, all the while conveniently forgetting the times we’ve been in the same position.
While it is a good thing to have the ability to pay our own way, we can go too far when we create in ourselves a desire to give without recognizing our inevitable need to receive.
Any fully realized rhythm of generosity must include the ability to accept the generosity of others. If it doesn’t, it is no longer a habit of generosity, but a habit of pride. Is it possible that we are no longer seeking a community that gladly gives and graciously receives, but the ability to demonstrate our own wealth and sense of charity? Only God knows our true motives, however, it’s important to make sure our reasons for giving are sincere.
It is important to be able to receive blessings from our brothers and sisters in Christ. To deny someone the opportunity to utilize the gift of generosity they have received from our Creator, as we learn about in Romans 12:8, is to deny them their ability to fulfill the calling they’ve received.
I’ll conclude, as I so often do, by referring to the picture of the church we receive in the second chapter of Acts:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
As part of the body of Christ, there is value in blessing others and in being blessed. It goes both ways. And if you haven’t had the chance to be on both ends of giving and receiving, try it. It will open your eyes to the rhythm of generosity.
The rhythm of generosity comes from both giving and receiving. There is no shame in being in need, no shame in receiving gifts that have been generously and lovingly given. If you, as a valued part of the body of Christ are in need, reach out. And to those of you, in the body of Christ, who have much, give generously to those in need.