Giving and Receiving

Thanks be to God for his [God’s] most indescribable gift. (2 Cor. 9:15 NRSV)

There is a French philosopher by the name of Jaques Derrida who wrote about the concept of the “gift.” He wrote there was no such thing a genuine gift which was free of constraints. The simple and boiled down argument is that whenever we are given a gift or we ourselves offer a gift to another, there are implicit strings attached. Either it is to gain something or it is a reciprocal act in trying to pay off some “debt.”Maybe a more colloquial way of putting it is “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Coming out of a season of gift giving that is the Christmas season, I tend to hear his argument with an open ear. Whenever I am given a gift, I immediately am in debt to the vfwkdmue5jc-kari-shea.jpgperson. I have to reciprocate in some way whether it be a simple act of saying thank you. I’ve more than once witnessed a “thank you circle” where the person who received the gift says “thank you for the gift.” “Thank you for saying thank you for the gift.” “Thank you for saying thank you for my saying thank you for the gift…” and on and on it goes.

I have a sneaking suspicion Paul would agree too. In pulling out all the stops to secure donations to the Jerusalem Church Relief Fund (copyright pending), Paul appeals to the Corinthians sense of gratitude to God. Paul says that being generous and giving to others is a way of offering thanks to God for the gift of grace which saves us from ourselves.

Grace is in and of itself indescribable. We try our best though: forgiveness, new life, born again, joy, hope; all things used to describe the free gift of grace. For Paul, there actually is a “correct” response to this gift, and that is giving to others. Your giving, which comes out of receiving, is a concrete way you can offer thanksgiving to God for the grace found in Christ. It isn’t an obligation to give; once we have accepted grace, we cannot help ourselves but be in that same spirit!

But don’t ask me how much you should give. I don’t want that type of pressure. That’s between you and God. Remember “each of you must give as you have made up your mind [or heart].”

Thanks be to God.


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