The following piece originally appeared on the Living the Legacy blog at fhich.org. I figured I’d share it here as well in the spirit of the season.
The saying goes that it’s better to give than receive.
You hear it a lot during the holiday season, and it often gets relegated to cliché status.
It’s appropriate to take a few minutes, though, with Christmas just two days away, to place those words within both a historical and modern context. Also within the context of life here at Franklin Homestead & Carriage House, where giving has never been more important and receiving has never been as appreciated as it is right now.
“It’s better to give than receive” comes from the New Testament of the Bible and can be found in Acts 20:35. It’s a modernized version of “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (New International Version) The full verse reads, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
The narrator here is the apostle Paul, speaking with the church elders of Ephesus, as he passed through on his way to Jerusalem. It was a certainty that persecution and prison awaited him there, and everyone knew it. Those were dark days for the young church, and each passing hour seemed to bring less certainty, rather than more.
Despite this, Paul reminded the elders that the weak required their support and that even as the fledgling church needed all the help it could get, it was still a greater blessing to give help than to receive it.
Here’s where modern use of the phrase loses something in translation, though.
Today we say, “It’s BETTER to give than receive.” The New Testament, however, suggests, “It is MORE OF A BLESSING to give than to receive.” There’s a big difference there.
The intent behind saying it’s better to give than to receive is apparent. One should be at least as focused on giving as they are on getting. Which is fine. Greed is never a pleasant quality. But it also implies that you’re probably better off not to focus much on receiving things.
But there’s a very different intent that goes with giving being more of a blessing than receiving is. Yes, giving is still elevated above receiving, but receiving also gets its due as a blessing. Giving is a more significant blessing, but receiving is, in fact, also a blessing.
I think anyone who’s ever received a gift will admit that, at least to themselves. Being given things is pretty darn nice. It makes you feel loved, special, recognized.
A variety of holiday goodies have shown up here at Franklin Homestead & Carriage House recently. Cards. Homemade decorations. Gift bags. And if there was a way to measure such things, I’d guess that the people who gave them feel truly blessed by the act. But it’s very apparent that the residents here who receive the gifts also feel blessed. Probably more so this year than on Christmases past.
And as we continue with our end-of-year fundraiser, each donation brings with it a sense of appreciation, support, and respect. Every cent given is a blessing, both for the givers and the receivers.
A bit more historical context for giving and receiving that applies to life here: after Paul reminded the elders of Christ’s words, they prayed with him and then gave him hugs and kisses as they wept. The elders would never see Paul again, and they blessed him with the act of giving. But that’s not to say that Paul wasn’t also blessed by their hugs and kisses and weeping.
“No thanks, you guys. It’s better to give than receive, remember? So I only want to give.”
That’s not how it worked. And it’s not how giving and receiving works in general. If there was no benefit to receiving – if it was not a blessing – people would only give, but with no one to do the receiving, giving would be a non-starter.
Rewind nine months to the start of the pandemic.
Hugs and kisses were mostly a part of daily life that we took for granted. Now, we live in some of the darkest days imaginable, with each passing hour bringing less certainty, rather than more. And it’s hard to imagine gifts more ready to be given and received than hugs and kisses.
And for both the giver and the recipient, those affectionate gestures will be a tremendous blessing, equal to those given to and received by Paul as he boarded a ship for Jerusalem, sailing into an uncertain, difficult future, never to be seen again.
When will our residents see loved ones again without windows or plexiglass barriers or face masks between them? When will any of us?
Soon? Hopefully. Not soon enough, to be certain. But we will get there. As long as we continue to give of ourselves and receive with open hearts the love and support of others, no obstacle is too great to overcome.
From all of us here at Franklin Homestead & Carriage House, warmest wishes to all of you for a merry Christmas and a healthy, safe, and happy new year.