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Give and Take?

How many of you have the idea in your mind that relationships are give and take? That they should be fair and balanced? Perhaps you are thinking that you give and give and give, and others simply take what you have given; yet, offer nothing in return. The pain we experience in relationship can be debilitating. As we frequently grapple to get something back for our effort, we often find ourselves discouraged by a plethora of unmet expectations. We give and we take. After all, that is a fundamental of our humanness, right?

The short answer here is yes. A fundamental of our humanness is to expect that relationships are give and take. It is taught in nearly every culture from birth. One person gives, the other takes and respectively there is some balance to the natural ebb and flow of human relationship based in the basic need we have to provide and be provided for. It seems logical, maybe even divinely inspired. However, if we take a biblical view of this kind of thinking, we realize that relationship was not designed to give and take, rather give, and without expectation, graciously receive.

How can relationships grow if two people are competing between a dichotomy of give and take? Where is this modeled in Scripture? Did Jesus walk among us giving and taking as he loved us face to face? Examine closely the relationships between Adam, Eve and God before the Fall (Genesis 3:15). Does God take from Adam and Eve? Adam and Eve were certainly not capable of giving anything to God that he could not simply give or take for himself. God was not obligated beyond his promise to provide them all that they needed to live in the Garden of Eden. The Lord gave of his own heart and Adam and Eve received his good gifts. Adam and Eve gave back to the Lord out of their hearts, and the Lord, also, received their good gifts. They were in perfect fellowship with one another. That is, until Adam and Eve took for themselves something they were not supposed to have. Even so, God still gave and they still received from him. Although the course of perfect relationship was changed forever, they also gave to the Lord and the Lord received their offerings as became customary for the next several thousand years.

We look also to Jesus for this example of giving and receiving in relationships. He gave to those around him. He fed 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21), he washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-7), he healed multitudes (Matthew 8:1-2) and he heals the innermost parts of our hearts by giving us Salvation, through faith in him (John 16:24, Matthew 7:7-8). Of course there is no balance to this giving of Jesus Christ to us; but he does continue the model of graciously receiving our gifts. When Mary washed his feet with her hair and perfume, he did not refuse her (Like 7:37-38). As we give him our worship, he accepts it (John 9:38). Jesus gives us more than we could offer and receives from us what he does not need. This is a the kind of relationship that moves forward rather than stretches tensely from one person to another.

Rather than living in the tension between give and take, while trying to balance fairness, energy, cost, and benefit, could we consider that the model of loving and sacrificial giving and receiving is a more acceptable than the age old idea of give and take? Each loving gift is received in some way and produces forward action rather than tension in our relationships. What joy is there living in the tension of the world's give and take model of relationships? The constant battle to balance or avoid severing the relational tight rope is exhausting. This is why there are no examples of godly give and take relationships in the Bible. They do not work.

Consider your marriage, family and friend relationships. We all have one intrapersonal relationship that takes a tremendous effort to maintain. It is likely that we also are the person in at least one of our relationships that is taking more than we ought to from another person. We want what we cannot or will not give. And we give what we expect to take back (or get back). We are not called to love one another with the expectation that we will get what we desire from him or her. We are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and because we love him in that way, love others in the same manner (Matthew 22:37-38). In this way, our lives are part of the work of the Spirit in our relationships as we are sanctified and move from one glory to another in the context of giving and receiving lovingly and graciously (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are sanctified by living out our lives in biblical context! This is exciting stuff, folks!

So, rather than living in a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" culture. We can correct false thinking in our relationships by choosing to freely give and freely receive in the Lord by loving others with the heart of Christ. Imagine a couple who freely loves each other restoring spiritual, physical, and emotional intimacy by taking seriously the command to love each other as they are loved by Christ. What about the child who expects to get good gifts from his parents yet, is resistant to love them first? How could teaching this young person to love fully and receive love in the same way--even if no tangible gifts are given? This changes the way we think about the language and process of loving relationships. When we set aside our expectations and give without expectation, we are able to receive what God would provide for us, either on his own, or, through the gracious hearts of others. The true glory of God is seen and we move from glory to glory as a result.

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