“We ourselves are ‘saved to save’ – we are made to give – to let everything go if only we may have more to give.” Parables of the Cross
“We are made to give.” This is a life-giving principle. Scripture couldn’t be clearer. Jesus said, “give and it will be given to you.” And then, just in case we didn’t get the message, He elaborated: “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)
If that were an exact economic equation – give a certain amount of money and get back a certain percentage more in return – that would be motive enough to give. But we rather suspect that the “returns” aren’t measured in dollars and cents.
Why give? It comes quite naturally, frankly, to receive and amass pleasures and possessions for our own delight. But Lilias challenges us with the blessedness of giving: “first to God in surrender, then to man in sacrifice.” She looks to the flower for example.
“The true, ideal flower is one that uses its gifts as means to an end;
the brightness and sweetness are not for its own glory;
they are but to attract the bees and butterflies that will fertilize and make it fruitful.
All may go when the work is done – ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
She expands on that principle through two other references to nature. First, she contrasts the pebble to the diamond: “The pebble takes in all the rays of light that fall on it, but the diamond flashes them out again: every little facet is a means, not simply of drinking more, but of giving more out.”
Same with the opal: “The unearthly loveliness of the opal arises from the same process carried on within the stone: the microscope shows it to be shattered through and through with numberless fissures that catch and refract and radiate every ray that they can seize.”
Given to give.
We all know people who inspire us with their giving. Famous philanthropists who give back much more of their wealth than they keep for themselves. Stories are legend of people who have literally spent their lives in serving others. Just as compelling are those individuals who quietly and lovingly give of their substance, touching lives with gifts of time and service and other resources.
To a person they insist, I believe, that they have received more than they have given. Not necessarily in tangible returns nor always in appreciation. But in the life-affirming principle that it is “more blessed to give than receive.”
Less often we look at the negative. What happens when we don’t give? What happens when we hoard and hug our treasures close to ourselves? The answer, once again, is demonstrated through the natural world. Consider the sparkling Sea of Galilee which receives and gives out fresh water. It is alive and life-giving. But follow the fresh water through the Jordan River down to the Dead Sea which receives the water but doesn’t pass it on. Without an outlet the water stagnates. It cannot support life. It is aptly called the “dead sea.”
“We ourselves are ‘saved to save’ – we are made to give.” Lilias lived out the words she penned perhaps more radically than most of us ever will. But the choice remains the same for each of us in our own arena of living. Give or take. Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea. Which is it to be?
Painting Diary 1908