The Giver and the Taker
“GOD’S GIFTS,” SAID MEISTER ECKHART, “are meted out according to the taker, not according to the giver.” Did we enjoy God’s gifts according to the giver there would be no spiritual poverty among us, for surely there is no lack in God. Were I offered my choice to receive spiritual benefits that accord with my ability to ask or with God’s willingness to give, I would not hesitate a moment. By all means let me fall into the hands of God rather than into the hands of men, or even into my own hands. I cannot want a benefit as eagerly as God wants to give it to me. My asking is likely to be limited by many human factors, and my boldest request is sure to be small. God’s willingness to give is unlimited and His ability to perform what He wills is boundless. When the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon she received two kinds of treasures. The first was according to her asking: “King Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked.” It is not possible to tell how seriously she may have deprived herself by her limited asking. Modesty, pride, doubt, timidity—all these or any of them might have lurked in her heart and restrained her asking. We have but to look in our own hearts to discover how she acted. She too was human. But King Solomon would display his magnanimity, so he gave her all she asked “beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty.” So she departed, rich both from her own asking and from Solomon’s unsolicited giving. From what we know of King Solomon is it not reasonable to suppose that his voluntary bounty went far beyond her highest expectation? She had brought him gifts of gold and precious stones and spices. Surely he more than matched her generosity. Since God is infinite, whatever He is must be infinite also; that is, it must be without any actual or conceivable limits. The moment we allow ourselves to think of God as having limits, the one of whom we are thinking is not God but someone or something less than and different from Him. To think rightly of God we must conceive of Him as being altogether boundless in His goodness, mercy, love, grace, and in whatever else we may properly attribute to the Deity. It is not enough that we acknowledge God’s infinite resources; we must believe also that He is infinitely generous to bestow them. The first is not too great a strain on our faith. Even the deist will admit that the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, must be rich beyond the power of man to conceive. But to believe that God is a giver as well as a possessor takes an advanced faith and presupposes that there has been a divine revelation to that effect which gives validity to our expectations. Which indeed there has been. We call this revelation the Bible. Believing all this, why are we Christians so poverty stricken? I think it is because we have not learned that God’s gifts are meted out according to the taker, not according to the giver. Though almighty and all-wise, God yet cannot pour a great gift into a small receptacle. To receive in a measure more in keeping with God’s liberality five things are necessary. The first is faith. We must be convinced that God is kind, generous, goodhearted and ready to bestow His blessings upon His people with the bounty of a king. To have faith we must immerse ourselves in the Scriptures. And faith must be exercised if it is to be effective. Faith, like a muscle, grows by stretching. The second is capacity. That we differ from each other in spiritual capacity is too evident to need proof; but the reason is a great mystery and lies too deep for our understanding, certainly too deep for discussion here. It is enough to say that whatever his capacity each man can increase it if he will. The human soul is not a hard-baked vessel with a fixed size; it is a living thing capable of growth and expansion as it interacts with the gracious actions of the Holy Spirit. The third is receptivity, and one factor always present in receptivity is interest. It is virtually impossible to receive into our minds anything in which we have no interest. A man of ordinary mind may go on to do marvels in a given field if he has keen enough interest in it, and leave behind many men of finer minds who lack the necessary interest. Sometimes one interest may crowd out another. I wonder how many potential Rubensteins or Heifetzes may have gotten lost in obscurity simply because they could not as boys bring themselves to practice when a ball game was in progress on a corner lot nearby. So worldly interests often crowd out heavenly ones and spiritual receptivity is destroyed as a result. The fourth is responsibility. The gifts of God are given to us to use. When they are not used they atrophy. The story of the ten talents should be a warning to all of us. When writing about the gifts of the Spirit the apostle Paul explained that these manifestations of the Spirit were given to everyone for the profit of all. Selfish attitudes toward the blessings of God can destroy their usefulness. We have a serious responsibility in this matter. The fifth is gratitude. It is impossible to be too thankful to God, but it might be good to try it. Our wise Father does not usually give a second gift until we properly praise Him for the first.