A while back, I was visiting back home in South Carolina and I was at a restaurant that had one of those really fancy soda machines. It was the one with the screen that you had to press buttons in order to choose your drink.
As I was going to get my drink, there was an older lady in front of me having a really hard time figuring out what to do. I saw her in crisis and decided to step up and help her out with her drink selection.
After I helped her, she had a gracious look on her face, but then she said this to me:
“You see… women do need men!”
It just really took me off guard. And I let out one of the most awkward laughs you’ve probably ever heard.
I just started to think, how could someone possibly interpret a situation like that in such a way that it made them come to the conclusion that one entire gender is absolutely dependent upon another entire gender? If anything, this was a sign that older people need young people… I kid!
However, that event helped show me that we are trained to see the world in a certain way and all of our experience are filtered through that certain way of seeing the world. Hers, unfortunately, was a one colored by male superiority, despite being a woman herself!
Still, it made me consider the ways that I may unfaithfully see the world too.
One of the verses that I’ve held dearly since I was a kid was Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
It seems pretty simple: giving is better than receiving, therefore, giving is always inherently good.
And I love to give. I love being the one that provides for people. I love having people depend on me in that way. But, just like the lady, I always read that verse in a way that was colored by the way that I already see the world.
I think Satan knows this and he uses this against. He uses good things, not bad things, to tempt us. That’s why Paul says that he disguises himself as an angel of light. Satan doesn’t tempt us with the things that we obviously know is evil!
If you think about Jesus in the wilderness, what does Satan tempt him with? Bread. Is that bad? No. Jesus eats bread plenty of times in his life. Satan tells him to perform a miracle. Is that bad? No, Jesus performs many miracles during his ministry. Then Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Is that bad? No, because Scripture tells us that one day Jesus will be ruler of all the kingdoms of the world.
So what was wrong about what Satan did to Jesus there?
It wasn’t what was offered to Jesus, but the ways in which he wanted Jesus to go about it. Sometimes, evil is just doing good things on Satan’s terms, which makes it the opposite of good.
And this totally struck a cord in my life. Because I realized that when I would give, it wasn’t on godly terms, but on worldly terms. What can be one of my strengths can morph into something the enemy uses as a weakness.
One time, I was at a Vespers service. We were taking the Lord’s Supper that night, and I really love the way that we did there. Instead of us all going up and receiving from one or two people at the front, we pass the bread and cup around, serving it to each other. I love this practice, and so I was excited about taking it that night.
The thing that I was most excited about, though, was not receiving communion from the person beside me, but about giving it to my neighbor.
I was so thrilled to be the one to whisper “Christ’s body broken for you” and “Christ’s blood shed for you” to someone. However, with the way the room was set up and the place that I was sitting, the rotation ended up working out was that I was the very last one to be served, and so I didn’t serve anyone. I just received the Lord’s Supper and brought the meal back up to the front.
And I was actually really bummed.
But then, I felt the Lord whispering in my heart, “Why did you want to give this Supper to someone so badly? How can you give this Supper to someone else, when you don’t really even know what it means for me to give this Supper to you?”
And God called me back to the verse in Acts that I cherished as a child. However, he whispered something new into my heart, “It may be more blessed to give than to receive,” he said to me, “but it is more harmful to give unfaithfully, than for you to give and think you’re giving faithfully.”
I was so eager to give this bread to the person beside me. Yet, Satan was just as eager to give bread to Jesus in the wilderness. The woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears gave him a kiss, yet Judas betrayed Jesus by giving the same. What if giving isn’t blessed within itself? Yet, what if it’s all about giving rightly?
I realize that I can’t trust myself. Just like the lady at the soda fountain, I can’t trust the way I see and interpret the world. And I can’t even trust the way I see and interpret my own actions.
Even if it seems to be “good,” there is a way of doing “good” that causes more harm than love. It leads to death, and not life.
While there is a blessedness in giving like Christ, there is an equal and opposite unblessedness in giving that ends up being anti-Christ. It is not enough to give. In fact, it may be more dangerous to be a giving person, because it’s easier for us to think that we’re the blessed ones.
Yet, we must not be too confident in that. What we consider a blessed kiss may be the kiss that is used to betray our Lord.
God, help us not only to do the right thing, but to do the right things rightly. Amen.