I’ve never liked hearing someone say to me, “I don’t want to be a bother, or a burden,” when turning down my offer of help or a gift. And yet, I often catch myself saying something similar to others. Or I’ll say to myself, “I’m strong, I don’t need help.” I once read a story by Stephen Donaldson where whenever the main character tried to reject an offer of help the response he would receive was, “You honor the giver by receiving the gift.” These are powerful words. “You honor the giver by receiving the gift.”
I’ve been challenged by these words to recognize what a disservice to others we can be by not accepting their help and how we can even hurt them. I once saw a grandma trying to give her grandson a gift and he kept saying, “No, please don’t spend money on me.” Then she said, “It hurts me when you don’t let me buy you things.” I could almost hear her say, “It hurts when you don’t let me love you, when you reject my gifts.”
How often is this like our relationship with God? God, our loving Father wants to bestow his blessings and his grace upon us to fill us with joy. And yet I have often rejected his gifts because of guilt over my misdeeds or feeling unworthy. The reality is that this is correct. I don’t deserve God’s love; I haven’t earned it. None of us have. But that isn’t the point. God’s love, all love, is a gift, a gift that lovers long to give to their beloved. Imagine a young man wanting to give his girlfriend a present. He spends all day looking forward to surprising her with his gift. And when the moment finally comes, she responds by pulling out her purse and asking how much she owes him.
Psalm 116 wrestles with this same difficulty. The author asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me? The cup of salvation I will raise, and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people.” In other words, I will pay God back by receiving his gift, saying thank you, and loving others in return.
It is not always easy to receive gifts from others, but the only way we learn how to love and how to be generous is by loving and acting generously. We have to put these virtues into practice. We actually help others to grow in virtue when we accept their gifts and offers to help, their gifts of service. We are not burdens by accepting their gift, we are ourselves a gift to others in that moment.
So next time someone offers you a gift or help, don’t immediately say no. Remember, “You honor the giver by receiving the gift.”