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Christian Counseling - Christmas: A Time to Give and a Time to Take

"It is better to give than receive." That adage is consistently taught throughout our Christian education - giving over getting. Perhaps the almost exclusive focus on putting ourselves last or out of the picture on receiving is due to the perception that our nature is basically selfish. It seems the over focus on giving is meant to compensate for our self-centeredness, but, on one hand, it is troubling to me. It also seems to generate a belief that the righteous should not take unless it is absolutely necessary and they should have only a minimal desire to take, if any at all. This leaves many Christians in conflict about whether or not to accept appropriate praise and other good gifts. If they do take, some believe they must also express a considerable amount of humility. Sometimes those who take do so out of obligation or find it is accompanied by guilt, embarrassment and feelings of unworthiness. All of this limits the intended happiness in taking.

Why do we give gifts of words or goods to others? Because we want others to experience joy and it also gives us a measure of the same. We don't want the receivers of our gifts to feel uncomfortable, but to be happy and freely accept the offerings of our hearts. I wonder how often it is received that way. How often is it done freely without any discomforting feelings or words like "You shouldn't have!" or "I didn't get you a gift" or an unexpressed thought about not spending as much as the other did on a gift?

To be like God we also must completely bask in and enjoy both giving and taking. He so desires us to be moved with happiness and pleasure by His costly gifts. Without hesitation He wishes for us to take, just as He easily and fondly takes our praise and worship. I recall my college dean who lead about 40 students in a very informal and moving communion, as we sat on the floor talking about life. A few loaves of bread were passed around and each took a small portion, but the dean took an unexpected, large handful of bread. When asked about his taking so much, he responded by saying, "I want all of Jesus I can get."

The unfettered taking, not just giving, from a heart and mind that is genuinely free needs to be our consistent response to those offering us their precious gifts of words and goods. This is especially true during this Christmas season when we remember God who gave His very best for those He loves, and that includes you.

A heart that takes with thanksgiving is righteous.    

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