Doctrine: God allows us be in some kind of constant mortal need on purpose because our need serves multiple purposes in His plan for us and others. Being grateful in general is not the same thing as being a graceful receiver. To receive UNgracefully is to live a lie.
There are many Christlike traits that we preach about, talk about, and pursue. We try to be truly charitable. We try to be forgiving. We try to serve. We try to not judge unrighteously. And so on. But, in my own life, I have found, and been given the repeated—and currently long-term—opportunity to develop yet another, often overlooked, rarely discussed, and yet infinitely valuable Christlike attribute.
What is that trait? It’s being a graceful receiver.
Being grateful in general is not the same thing as being a graceful receiver. I have been grateful throughout my life for many things—and still am. But, learning to gracefully receive—when I am in need—has been one of the most difficult traits I’ve been given the opportunity to learn and practice. And, hopefully, as I unfold unto you what I’ve learned about being a graceful receiver, you will see just why it is so critically important to becoming like God.
God Puts Us in a State of Constant Mortal Need On Purpose
We often forget that though Christ was the Son of God, He was given no wealth or consequence in His mortal sojourn. He was born in a stable—a charitable, last resort gift-accommodation from the inn keeper. His first bed was a feeding trough (more often called a manger). He did not have mission sponsors and pre-arranged accommodations for His earthly ministry. Heavenly Father could have set His Son up with everything, but He didn’t—on purpose. So, how did Christ manage to get all that He needed? Charity. By involving others in His needs and receiving gracefully from them.
Certainly Jesus could turn water to wine (St. John 2:9-10), but didn’t He go around turning rocks into bread merely to satisfy His very justifiable hunger (Matthew 4:3-4). He seemed to only multiply food on behalf of others (Mark 8:14-20). With such miraculous power at His fingertips He still visited the homes of His friends (such as Mary, Martha and Lazurus) and also strangers. He accepted dinner invitations from both the wealthy Pharisees and the criminal outcasts on the street. He walked nearly everywhere putting himself within the reach of everyone around Him and in within range of their gifts for His apparent needs, and their charity. We know He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).
Christ also asked His disciples to leave their livelihoods and follow Him to preach without purse or scrip. So, they were all without resources most of the time and often worried about how to eat. So, where did they get it all? Charity. Christ put Himself and His apostles in a constant position of need—on purpose.
Why does God allows us to be in constant need, on purpose? Why didn’t He provide everything for Christ and His disciples? Why doesn’t He always solve our needs currently?
God allows us to be in need, because our need involves others. It serves an important purpose in His plan of salvation. I might even suggest that our need is as much about others as it is about us.
I remember reading in the Doctrine in Covenants earlier this year and pondering, and being a little frustrated, at God commanding the missionaries in the early church to go on missions “without purse or scrip.” They suffered so much. And, I thought, we don’t do that today. Our missionaries go out taken care of.
Then, I asked, “How might such a command benefit the missionary effort?” Then, my eyes were opened. How many houses would not have been stopped at? How many people would never have met the missionaries? Of their need, the missionaries had to stop and seek charity. Then, those who gave the charity, their hearts were softened toward the missionaries. Then, it opened up the opportunity for those who gave charity to be taught by those who had to gracefully receive.
So often we want to serve others to soften their hearts. That would be easier. And, it helps at times. But by admitting, and owning, our need far more happens.
- First, our heart is softened and we learn to own our circumstances and to not be ashamed by them.
- And second, our need triggers compassion in others. By others responding to our need they are encouraged to soften their hearts and serve us because of their compassion.
- Then, third, their softened hearts prepare them to be more susceptible to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and to be taught the Gospel.
How many people would not have been healed had Christ’s life been one of privilege and finances? If He’d created His own food and bought lodging in every city He entered how many people would not have been taught the truth and blessed by His hands? How many opportunities to share the gospel and to love and bless others do we forgo by hiding our needs (whatever they may be)?
UNgracefully Receiving is to Live a Lie
We, unlike Christ, have hardly any power at all to do anything, and yet we are the first to deny the charity, gifts, service, advice, blessings, and sometimes appropriate praise from others. We rebuke it. We resent it. We run from it. We hide from it. We sometimes devalue that which we receive.
We want to pretend to everyone else that we need nothing, when in reality we need everything. No matter what our blessings or endowments, we all are in need of something—and depend upon God (and others) for all that we do receive.
And, who do we go to when we have needs? We turn to God. We pray for healing. We pray for guidance. We pray for health and strength. We pray to feel peace. We pray for companionship, love, or friendship. We pray to God for everything! Then, God, who allowed us to be in need, and has heard our prayers, sends (or prompts) one of His other children to give us things, to serve us, to offer us things, to teach us things, and the like.
We seem to want our needs fulfilled without having to involve anyone but ourselves and God. We’d gladly accept the blessing of walking if it came from a pillar of light or herbal supplement instead of from visiting a doctor, physical therapy, orthotics, crutches, or a walker. I know, because I’ve had several experiences in my life where injuries and simply genetically bad feet have created circumstances where walking was extremely difficult. Many of those times I wanted healing to come easy and without dependence upon drugs or basic rehabilitation. I wanted to go on normally. And yet, at some point I had to give in, own and admit my need, and pursue a path to healing other than all the ones that I wanted.
Interestingly, I think most of us would gladly accept money from an angel instead of from the bishop through fast offerings. Because the barrier to getting money from the bishop requires that we make the effort to meet with him and then admit to him that we need help, and have possibly been unwise in our finances, or maybe just reveal how poor we are. Often, his help comes only when we are willing to make other changes in our lives or give back in some way. Yes, much, much easier to get the money we need from an angel…
The fight to be a graceful receiver must transcend our desire to maintain a front of needlessness, of having it “all together.” It must transcend our fear of dependence up others and God. It must transcend our perceived idea of dignity. Our perception of self, in most instances, must be sacrificed.
Consider the Mud
So often we want the gifts and blessings of God to come the way we want them and we want them to support our perception of ourselves. Then, and only then, are we willing to receive with a genuine smile.
However, unless our perception of ourselves is a correct and true one we will find ourselves unable to gracefully receive God’s gifts and blessings (to some extent); whether blatantly through Him or through other people (or means) He sends.
Consider the mud. When Jesus was brought to acknowledge a blind man He went and healed Him in a most interesting way.
…he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, go, wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:6-7)
How many of us, if to have our sight cured we had to put mud made from the spittle of someone on our eyes. Would we rather not simply have Christ touch our eyes with His fingers or lay His hands upon our head and pronounce us healed? Or, perhaps send us to a doctor who has one miracle pill that we have to swallow? Wouldn’t it be simpler that way? Why mud (literally and metaphorically)?
Consider Naaman, the leper, who thought it ludicrous to be asked to wash seven times in the muddy river of Jordan. He wanted to be healed by “some great thing,” not by something uncomfortable and seemingly below his dignity or station. He almost did not gracefully receive the healing he so desired because of his incorrect perception of how God could (and should) heal him. (2 Kings 5:13) Note, he had a preconceived idea of how God should bless Him, and then when presented with something that had not even crossed his mind, he resented it and almost nearly rejected it completely; more willing to maintain his dignity than to be healed of an incurable disease.
Doesn’t that sound crazy? We read that story and think, “How could he have nearly been so silly about that?”
Why must we suffer the perceived indignity of having to accept charity, gifts, and blessings from the hands of other people, modern technology, or medicine? Why not some great thing so that we can maintain our perception of ourselves and how we want to appear before others? In other words, why can’t we be allowed to live a lie?
Why Be a Graceful Receiver?
Being a graceful receiver FIRST helps us to see ourselves as we really are. We can’t only be willing to accept help when it suits us or when others are willing to offer their help in a way that protects our perception of ourselves, “our dignity.” SECOND, being a graceful receiver allows us to bless others and help them progress in the Gospel. As we learn to see receiving gracefully as a direct avenue to the power of exalting others, it will no longer be an embarrassment, an indignity, or depressing. It will be exciting. It will be a big eternal light bulb that goes off in our heads and hearts and we will be surprised we didn’t see it sooner.
How to Be a Graceful Receiver
See Ourselves as We Really Are (or at least be willing)
Christ knew who He was. He knew that He didn’t need any of the charity or gifts others would offer or give. And yet, He took no pride or joy in proving or broadcasting His omniscience and powers to others. He lived by the charity He received. One of the reasons He did this was because His receiving that charity, those meals, and those gifts was about others, not Him. He didn’t receive to bolster His own self-perception. He received to help them purify their perception of Him, and themselves.
When we shun kindness, gifts, praise, help, guidance, suggestions, advice, assistance (in all its forms) in order to protect an image of ourselves, it devalues the givers. It creates a feeling of shame or indignity in the giver. It devalues the gifts. It also makes it impossible for the individual rejecting the charity to receive the help they need. It keeps them from helping others through their need. It causes their self-perception to fester and prevents them from becoming more like God. It perpetuates the lie.
Remember Whom You are Actually Rejecting
Rejecting charity (in any form) is to reject…God.
Now, I realize that’s a powerful statement, but scripture backs it up. Matthew 25:40 could be reworded to say:
Inasmuch as ye have rejected a gift from one of the least of these my brethren, ye have rejected a gift from me.
Remember that Receiving is Also a Form of Giving
Christ never rejected gifts because receiving them with grace was about maintaining His true identity as the Son of Man, emulating His father, and advancing the progress of those who served Him. For, we must all learn to give, as well as to receive. Receiving a gift from others is also a form of giving. By allowing them to serve us, we allow them to serve God by the same eternal doctrine taught in Matthew 25:40. By shunning their service we hinder their righteous efforts to serve God.
Don’t Draw Undue Attention to the Gift and Don’t Devalue the Gift
Next, Christ accepted the gifts, praise, humble gratitude, and oblations offered to Him without ceremony of any kind. He received all such with humility, appreciation, and love. And, He returned all such gifts with gifts of His own: gifts of forgiveness, gifts of insight, invitations to follow Him, and the bestowal of blessings and miracles.
For us, often, as mentioned above, receiving gracefully is, in and of itself, a gift in return to those (and God) who give us things. But Christ always gave in return. And note, He never tried to duplicate the gift. He always gave back that which He was at liberty, and capable, of giving: forgiveness, insight, invitations, and blessings. He didn’t try to give back a gift with some amount of monetary value just to appease His conscience at having to condescend to receive. He didn’t give back something of lesser value just to say He did return the favor—or to even the score. He gave that which He valued and which was of most worth to those who had served them; He gave them the Gospel.
When Christ dined with Simon, and a sinner woman came in and washed His feet with her tears and rubbed them with expensive ointment (and Simon was appalled at the woman’s gift because of her status and his own puffed up view of his own status), Christ accepted the meal given by Simon (an internal sinner) and the dramatic offering of the woman and gave back to both of them in different ways. In one parable He offered Simon instruction on His atonement, true love, forgiveness; and to the woman He gave forgiveness from her sins. (Luke 7:37-48)
How often do we give back (whether something of equal monetary value or at least a mere trinket) to ease our conscience at having to condescend to receive something to begin with? To protect our ego? Or to even the score in our heads? How often do we over-extend ourselves to give more than we received so that we didn’t remain in a perceived debt to someone?
If we weren’t focused on our own egos, and false perceptions of self, we might find that we see love in the charity, blessings, advice, guidance, and help that comes from others. We might find that we are inspired on what we can offer in return—not to even the score—but to show our love to them. We might find that devaluing the gift is far worse than being in need to begin with.
Accept Gifts From All
Also, Christ accepted the gifts and charity offered to Him by all. He did not distinguish between the size of the gift or its monetary value. He only took note of the actual desire and intent of the individual behind the gift. He didn’t care if the gift came from a publican, a Pharisee, a leper, or Samaritan woman. He didn’t care if they were rich and cast in of their excess or if they were poor and cast in of their want. He didn’t make a big deal out of accepting gifts from anyone because of their station, sins, or circumstance. All gifts were acceptable to Him.
How often, though, are we loathe to accept charity from someone we don’t like very much or who annoys us? But, we’ll accept it gladly if it comes through a best friend, or anonymously. How often do we give credit to an act of service from someone we are willing to accept it from, only to denounce or totally forget about the act of service from someone we are embarrassed to receive help from—someone we didn’t want to know that we needed help?
Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself, Use Your Need in Order to Bless the Giver
Another thing Christ did in His graceful receiving was He received the offered praise and gifts with love and without drawing too much attention to it, but also not ignoring it. He didn’t self-deprecate. He didn’t devalue Himself to make their effort seem unnecessary, or ridiculous. He didn’t apologize repeatedly for having need of their charity and trying to deflect His own embarrassment at His current needy situation. He asked for charity—humbly—and received it modestly in an attempt to love and serve others in return. He made His need all about them and not all about Him.
To the woman at the well (St. John 4:7-10), He said:
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
Christ used His need to strike up a Gospel conversation with the woman so that He might teach her! Isn’t that amazing? What could we accomplish in service to others if we saw every opportunity to receive as an opportunity to love and teach them in return?
Think about Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-42). Christ accepted both Martha’s offerings of food and Mary’s offering of her undivided attention. He appreciated both offerings. He honored both. And also taught both about the importance of the other woman’s gift. In receiving He instructed them.
It’s very hard for me to quantify my life. I don’t know how to explain so much in sufficiently few words to keep this blog at a realistic length and still give you an accurate insight into my life. Suffice it to say, that for the last nine years (and still presently) I have been given the opportunity to practice being a graceful receiver in the ways I have mentioned/highlighted above. I have had to practice seeing myself as I really am (in my needful state) and to not be ashamed, embarrassed, or apologetic about it. To let my ego go and be confident in where God has put me and what burden that requires of many of His children (who happen to be my family). To use the opportunities of my own need to find teaching opportunities with those who serve me.
I’m in a stage of life where I need help and accepting it gracefully is the right thing to do. I haven’t lost my dignity by being where I am. I have gained my dignity by not pretending that I don’t need help or that help makes me ridiculous. It doesn’t make me ridiculous. It makes me honest. It makes me unashamed to own God’s plan for my life and to find confidence in trusting that plan. It makes me truly grateful to those gracefully giving to me, and to God. It gives value to their sacrifices and their efforts. It allows us both to be blessed to increase in godly attributes. It increases our feelings of self-worth and consequence.
Can you imagine what would happen to the relationships in my family and to me if I ridiculously refused their help based on some prideful stimulus to pretend that I don’t need help? Or to accept it with grumbling and embarrassment? How grateful would any of really be if we discriminate in what we will receive and what we will not, or in how our needs are met or how blessings are dispensed? And, how much more might we receive from God, that we’ve asked for, if we learned to receive gracefully?
Just as losing our life to God enables us to gain it eternally (Luke 9:24-25), so losing our perception of dignity and pride to God allows us to gain it eternally—but most importantly in the present—as we learn to gracefully receive. And, as we learn to receive gracefully, we will increase and multiply our power to share the Gospel and help other progress in God’s plan.