Haddon Robinson tells of a man named George Wilson who in 1830 was sentenced by a Philadelphia court to be hanged. The President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, extended to Wilson a full pardon, but he refused to accept it. The case went to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Marshall ruled that a pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends on the acceptance of the person implicated. If it is refused then there is no pardon.
People are odd, we like gifts, and surprises thrill us! But it is much easier to be a giver than a receiver. If we are a giver then we don’t fill beholding to anyone. However, if we are a recipient of a gift, we fill indebted.
I remember the Christmas of my 18th birth year. My father was the Vice President of Lincoln Income Life Insurance company in Louisville, Kentucky. Our neighbor, much poorer, didn’t have a very good job. So my father got him a job at his company. That Christmas, Johnny, told me that he was buying my parents a Country Ham. Country Hams are very expensive and highly praised. I felt that it was Johnny’s way of saying thanks for the job. When he gave the ham to my parents, he told them that he had mentioned the gift to me. When I got home they were angry with me for not telling them. Their gift to Johnny was a box of candy my mother had made. I would have much rather had the candy than the ham.
Sometimes it is difficult to be gracious recipients. Ten lepers are healed by Jesus. Nine of those lepers cannot turn back and say, “thank you.” They want the benefits, but not the gratefulness.
Paul said, I remember the words the Lord Jesus himself said: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” In that is clearly stated the blessedness of giving. Giving makes one feel good! That is Christ-like-ness. However, we miss the last part of Paul’s quote of Jesus! IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE. While it is more blessed to give, it is also blessed to receive.
Many of us have difficulty receiving. Christmas is a good example of that. What happens if someone gives you a gift that you did not expect? You will run out and buy them a gift. If they gave you something more valuable than you gave them, guilt.
David Livingston once said, “It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live …. The noblest thing a man can do is, just humbly to receive, and then go amongst others and give. It is pride that keeps us from receiving. It is arrogance that blocks the joy of getting. It is egotism that will not allow us to be humble and take. It is vanity that would not allow us to admit that we have a need. Jesus said, you receive not, because you ask not.
Now, how is this a spiritual problem? It goes to the very heart of being a recipient of God’s love and forgiveness. To admit that I am a sinner and need God, admits my dependance upon God. To realize that God must forgive me, makes me realize that I cannot do it myself. That is powerlessness.
Receiving was at the very heart of Lucifer’s problem with God. He was to put his throne above God’s. He wasn’t going to be dependent on God.
A well-known English minister, years ago, on a night when he was just ready to retire, there came a knock at his door. When he went downstairs, he found at the door a poor, wretched little girl, dripping wet. She had come through the storm, and she said, “Are you the minister?” “Yes,” he said, “I am.” “Well, won’t you come and get my mother in?” she asked. The minister said, “Why, I was just about to retire, and besides it is hardly seemly for me to go out and get your mother in. If she is drunk, you can get a policeman to get her in. Oh,” she said, “you don’t understand! My mother is not out in the storm, she is not drunk, she is at home and is dying, and she is afraid to die: she is afraid she is going to be lost forever, and she wants to go to heaven and doesn’t know how, and I told her I would get a minister to get her in.” He asked where she lived, and she told him of a district so vile that even in the daytime respectable people did not go there without a policeman accompanying them. “Why,” he said, “I cannot go down there tonight,” and subconsciously he said, “It would be all my reputation is worth to be seen with a girl like this in that district in the middle of the night; no, I cannot go. As the preacher of this great and important church, what would my people think if it should get into the paper?” To the girl he said, “I will tell you what to do. You go down and get the man who is running the Rescue Mission; he will be glad to help you.” He said he felt ashamed as he said it, but thought his reputation had to be maintained.
“He may be a good man,” she said, “but I don’t know him. I told my mother I would get a real minister, and I want you to come and get her in. Come quickly she’s dying.” I couldn’t stand the challenge in those eyes,” the preacher said, “I felt so ashamed, and so said to her, ‘Very well, I will come.'” Then the girl led him down through the city and into the slum district, into an old house, up a rickety stairway and along a long dark hall into a little room, and there lay the poor woman. “I have gotten the preacher of the biggest church in the city,” said the girl; “he will get you in; he didn’t want to come, but he’s come.
The woman looked up and said, “Oh, sir, can you do anything for a poor sinner? All my life I have been a wicked woman, and I am going to hell, but I don’t want to go there; I want to be saved, I want to go to heaven. Tell me what I can do.” Then it came to me, Why not tell her what your mother used to tell you? She’s dying, and it can’t hurt her, even though it does her no good. And so I said, ‘My poor woman, God is very gracious, and the Bible says, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). “She said, ‘does it say that in the Bible? My! This ought to help get me in. But, sir, my sins! What about my sins?’ It was amazing how easy the verses came to me, verses I had learned years ago and never used, and I said, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (I John 1:7). ‘All sin?’ she said: ‘Does it really say that the blood will cleanse me from all sin? That ought to get me in.’ I knelt down and prayed with that poor woman and got her in, and while I was getting her in, I got myself in. We two poor sinners, the minster and the dying harlot, were saved together in that little room.'”