If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV). And so we jockey for the position of “giver,” sidestepping everyone who tries to give to us. Certainly no one likes to be a burden to others, and yes, God does bless our giving. In context, Jesus’ words refer to our dealings with other people: work hard, help the weak, don’t covet others’ possessions. The idea is a reasonable self-sufficiency among my brothers.
But I tend to take it too far. When I come to church to worship the magnificent and almighty Father, the only Source of my existence, where is my heart? Do I kneel at His feet in adoration? Well… not exactly. I find myself trying to be self-sufficient in my worship of God.
Does anyone else see the oxymoron here?
Oh, I mean well. I try to offer God a “sacrifice of praise” as in Hebrews 13:15. Some people around me are raising their hands in worship. I don’t raise mine because it makes me self-conscious -– but all the while I feel a little inadequate. My lower back bothers me when I stand still for too long –- yet I stubbornly stand throughout the song service, while the discomfort distracts my attention from God. Who am I trying to impress? Does this striving for picture-perfect worship constitute a sacrifice of praise? No, I think I have been missing the point.
Remember when you were little, and a grownup would take you shopping for a birthday or Christmas gift? Did the “perfect gift for Mom” – or Dad or your little sister – often seem to be something you wanted? As we mature, we learn to know our family and we choose gifts that will please them, not ourselves. But that childish attitude can carry over into worship. Am I bringing God what He wants, or just showing off (perhaps playing the martyr) to please myself? Maybe God does not time how long I stand up, or measure how high I hold my hands. Maybe He wishes I would quit trying to perform for Him, and just depend on Him.
But where is the sacrifice in just depending on God? I want to give something to Him! I suspect that the hardest thing to sacrifice – and the most pleasing to God – is when we lay down our pride. Suppose next Sunday I just tell God, “I need You; I have nothing of my own to bring You. Thank You for meeting my need.”
As near as I can figure, trust – not self-sufficiency – is the perfect gift for the God who has everything.
Thanks for reading!