Being a good receiver is hard work. In fact, a commonly quoted Scripture states, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Act 20:35). For many of us, it is not only "more blessed" to give, it's just plain easier. Becoming a gracious receiver can be a challenge. However, it is important to learn how to receive from others. If we can not receive from those we can see, how can we receive all of the abundant gifts that God wants to give us?
Taking on the role of a giver can feel empowering. By contrast, being on the receiving end of things can bring out feelings of vulnerability. When we give, we are in full control, but when we receive we must set aside our control. Being gracious under these conditions requires much humility. When we receive from others in this spirit of humility, we are acknowledging that we are not an island and that we need the help of others. This attitude of humility is difficult for many of us as we like to think that we don’t need others in order to succeed.
Jesus displayed perfect humility throughout his time here on earth. One such example is when the woman with an alabaster box lavishly anointed him with oil. In Luke’s account, the Pharisees were offended because they felt it was improper for a sinful woman to be touching a prophet. However, Jesus graciously received her precious offering. In response to the disciples, Jesus defends the woman's actions explaining that those who have been forgiven much, love much, and that those who love much, give much. Matthew 26:7-13 tells us,
“a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. ‘And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Jesus recognized the purity of her heart and her willingness to be vulnerable, even to the criticism of others, in order to show her gratitude to him. Jesus humbly received her gift and protected her right to express love in the language she chose.
Dr. Gary Chapman in his book "The Five Love Languages" encourages us to identify our own love language as well the love languages of those around us. One of the beauties of this teaching is that it stresses seeing things from another person's perspective. We learn to interpret how others love us best, as well as learn how to reciprocate that love in a language that they will understand. This perspective helps us better understand and receive the love of others. It helps us let go of false expectations and keeps us from misunderstanding the good intentions of others.
There are many reasons God gives us different love languages, gifts, and talents. One of the most important may be that God doesn’t want us to live too independently of one another. All of us, collectively, portray the image of God. And together, the many ways we love reflect the love of God. There are those who show love by touch, others by affirming words, some by quality time, others by giving gifts, and still others by acts of service. The beautiful combination of these love languages is a clear picture of the attributes of God’s love for us. When we understand that there are different ways to express love, we can better appreciate the ways that our spouses, parents, children and other people of significance pour into our lives.
When we remember that God has given others a unique giving style, we can properly discern and receive their care for us. It is also valuable to realize that collectively we share the giving heart of the Father. We can not exhibit his love in its entirety without the rest of the Body of Christ. Therefore, in the humility of Christ, we must allow others to bless us and leave room for the unique creativity and cadence of the giver to shine forth as a reflection of God's love for us. When we celebrate this diversity, we celebrate God's great love for us.