The saying goes—it is more blessed to give than to receive. Here’s a quick quiz—is this statement a Biblical one? Or one of Ben Franklin’s pithy sayings? If it is from the Bible, does Jesus say it? (You can skip to the bottom to get the answer at the **.)
I suppose the thinking behind this statement is that the giver benefits more than the receiver. And I can attest to the statement’s veracity. It is wondrous fun to watch someone open a specially wrapped gift. You know what’s inside—he doesn’t. You have a couple moments of savoring this anticipatory pleasure.
But there are times when it is most decidedly more blessed to receive. I got to thinking the other day about the five best gifts I have ever received.
In true David Letterman fashion, I will start with # 5.
# 5—when my husband and I got married, the gift that we received from my (favorite) aunt was a Le Creuset casserole in flame orange. I had not heard of Le Creuset, but I loved the color because my one-time color scheme for my kitchen included orange. We are now coming up on our 40th wedding anniversary, and the Le Creuset is still serving up chili or stew, or whatever else I cook in it.
# 4—in 1960 my parents returned to Africa for their 3rd term as missionaries. I was staying behind, here in the U.S., so I could finish high school and enter college. My parents were leaving in January, and my birthday was in February. So, right before they left, they gave me my birthday present—a portable Smith-Corona typewriter. This little typewriter was all mine! I was thrilled. I used that typewriter all through college, and all through grad school. In fact, one time when I had procrastinated just a tad too long, I was actually typing the last several pages as my friend was driving us to campus! The resulting final pages, wherein I condensed 5 or so pages into 2 not well worded ones, ruined the paper. The professor gave me an F, told me to rewrite it—which I did. Subsequently, he gave me a B+ and told me, point blank, that I would have had an A on the paper, but for my procrastination. This is a story that I tell students to let them know that I know full well the dangers of procrastination. But, I am digressing from my little Smith-Corona. I still have it; it sits in the basement, no longer used, but still cherished.
# 3—recently, as a gift-giving occasion approached (either birthday or Christmas; I can’t remember which), my son asked what I might like. He had introduced me to the wonderfully quirky website Think Geek, and I had spotted something there that I thought just looked so cool. It was a Victorinox Swiss army knife (I love these little pocket knives with all their gizmos). But this one had a little extra item—a flash drive! So I sort of suggested that. It seemed a bit weird, but my son knows me well. And he got it for me. While it wasn’t exactly a surprise, I was tickled. I use the knife all the time, and I use the flash drive to store all my teaching material on. It goes back and forth to college with me, and gets plugged in every teaching day.
# 2—Christmas a year ago, as we were exchanging gifts with our daughter, she put a small package with my pile of presents. Our family tradition is that the givers get to suggest the order for opening presents. That way, if one item matches up with an item in another package, they are opened in a way that makes sense. Example—we are crazy enough to wrap batteries, so the item that the batteries go with gets opened before the batteries do. Understand? Anyway, this little package was held back, until finally I was allowed to open it. The box said Tiffany. Now, understand, I have never received anything from Tiffany in my life. Clearly, our daughter, who was living in Manhattan at the time, had done some shopping. Inside the box was a lovely silver cross. While I am not ordinarily given to wearing a cross necklace (while I am a Christian, the metonymy of the cross is something I am a bit hesitant to display), this one has special significance, so I wear it frequently. The artful design of the cross is a wonderful "extra".
# 1—when my husband and I first met, our romance began to bloom after I sang to him around a camp fire. The song I sang was “There is a Ship” which I had heard on a record album that was popular around that time. The inimitable trio of Peter, Paul and Mary had released a two record set album called “Peter, Paul and Mary in Concert.” Obviously, I told my future husband where I had learned the song I sang. At the end of the week of camp, he returned home, having signed on to be a counselor for only a week, and I stayed behind at camp—I was the craft teacher for the whole summer. Sunday was a day of free time, and I was moping around, thinking I was never going to see this young man again. In fact, each of us was dating someone else at the time. So, imagine my surprise when he showed up Sunday afternoon. His first question—what would your boyfriend say if I asked you out on a date? My answer—why don’t you ask me what I would say. Well, I said YES, of course. And then came his surprise—he had bought me a gift: the 2 record set of Peter, Paul and Mary in Concert. Music lives forever in the heart!
Five gifts, five wonderful memories, five examples of the blessedness of giving (and of receiving).
**Acts 20:35, It is more blessed to give than to receive—this statement occurs in the context of Paul’s speech before the elders at Ephesus. Paul says, "Remembering the words of the Lord Jesus. . .It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
So my question is a bit of a trick question. According to Paul, the words are Jesus', but, curiously, none of the four gospels chose to use those words of Jesus. I won’t even say—hmmmm.