Giving and Forgiving

What is better––to give or to forgive? I started thinking about this yesterday, and I don’t see an easy answer. Initially, I thought my answer would be “to give”. There are a lot of sayings about how good it is to give. For instance:

– It’s better to give than to receive
– To give is to receive
– Our will to give is recession-proof
– To give is to live
– To give is to gain

Giving has a lot of rewards.

We’re taught at a young age to give to others. Birthday parties, Christmas, Valentine’s Day. We give to others to show our friendship. And when we love someone, it’s easy to give cheerfully and generously.

Most of us like to give special gifts because we want to make others feel special. And we’re blessed in the process by the recipient’s surprise and gratitude. Giving bestows immeasurable joy on the giver. This is how it’s better to give than to receive.

I regretfully admit that I used to give grandiose gifts hoping people would like me more. And I’d give expensive gifts hoping that the gifts I received would be things I really liked. For the record, not only did I have the wrong motives in my giving, it rarely worked. I spent money I didn’t have and was hurt when my efforts weren’t reciprocated. This kind of giving is not what the quips above are referring to.

There’s no doubt that giving to others out of love is good. But what about forgiving others?

Alexander Pope is the third most-quoted writer after Shakespeare and Tennyson. One of his famous lines from the “Essay on Criticism” is:

– To err is human, to forgive is divine

We’re taught at a young age to ask forgiveness. Remember your mom’s stern instruction, “Say you’re sorry!” Whether we felt sorrow or not, we said the required phrase so we could get on with things. We know we have to say we’re sorry for what we did, but we’re not taught how to forgive others for what they’ve done.

Forgiving is not easy. Maybe that’s why Pope said forgiveness is the mark of God.

When someone hurts us, intentionally or unintentionally, physically or emotionally, it can be difficult to forgive them. And we have to know what forgiveness is and isn’t.  Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is not pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiving is letting go so that our feelings don’t turn to a bitter cancer within us.

Forgiveness is putting the other person in the hands of God and trusting Him with the rest.

When we’re hurt, there are three things we can do: 1) stay in the same situation and allow the other person to continue to hurt us; 2) retaliate and try to hurt the other person back; 3) rise above the emotions and turn to God so we can learn to forgive and move forward.

God says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Romans 12:21). Allowing someone else to continually hurt us is like giving up and being overcome by the strength of evil. Retaliating and trying to get even is like being consumed by anger and being overcome by evil. But rising above real life, forgiving the other person as we walk forward with God, and showing God’s love to others even in the midst of our harsh circumstances, that’s overcoming evil with good.

Giving and forgiving. Both are good. Both are characteristic of God. Both should be characteristic of us as we follow after Him.

Giving and forgiving, which is better? Neither. If done with the right motives, both are selfless acts that honor God and the other person. May we share the gifts and the forgiveness we’ve received from God as we rise above real life in triumph.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

May I pray?

God, You have given us so much. And yet there are times when it’s so hard for us to give generously out of the abundance of what You’ve given us. Whether we give or not we know how to do it. Please help us today to have a giving heart. And Father, even though You have forgiven us so much, it’s hard to forgive others. We don’t always know how to forgive. Help us today to lay our hurts, anger, and bitterness down at the foot of the Cross. Grant us wisdom to know how to respond to others in love without allowing the same hurtful things to keep happening. Through Your strength, may we conquer evil with good. Amen.

Q4U: What do you think is better––to give or to forgive?

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