Giving Begins With God
When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach and demonstrate the kingdom of God, he said to them, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10: 8). The order of events here is essential, for the impetus to give is engendered by what we have received. We give as we have been given to; we love as we have been loved; we forgive as we have been forgiven; we serve as we have been served – this is the way of Christ.
Take, for instance, the story in John 13 of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus, knowing that he had all power and authority, “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing,” and then washed his disciples’ feet — normally the job of slave (John 13: 2-5). According to John, in doing this, Jesus was practically demonstrating the fullness of his love (John 13: 1). Later Jesus explained where he had learned to love like this, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15: 9). In other words, Jesus demonstrated to his disciples the kind of love he had been used to receiving from his Father through eternity. The Son serves as he is served by the Father; loves as he is loved by the Father; and gives as he is given to by the Father. This means that the Father has been showing the Son the full extent of his love throughout eternity in continuous, humble, self-giving action. Naturally therefore, Jesus as the Son, is secure and grateful and enabled to freely love and serve his bride, the Church. All he expects is that we, in turn, will submit to his love: to receive from him.
However, this is easier said than done. When Jesus came to wash Peter’s feet, Peter was incredulous that he, the Lord and master, would serve him in such a lowly way. But Jesus replied, “I know you don’t understand what I am doing for you right now, but later it will make sense.” Peter resisted all the more saying, “I’ll never let you wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless you let me wash you, unless you let me serve you, then you’ll have no part with me” (John 13: 6-8).
Peter had to come to understand that unless he first received the love and service of Christ, then he would never really participate in the ongoing flow of love. The first and most important act of faith is submitting to his love for us. Giving begins with receiving. We let him give to us his love, grace and mercy; then we are ready and to pass it on to the world. That is how genuine giving is engendered. This applies to our giving of money, time, energy and love.
Only when we have freely received – then, we can freely give.