Giving is life, whereas receiving is death

This universe is sustained by dichotomous principles. Good and evil; Right and wrong. Darkness and brightness: Up and down. Sadness and happiness: Positive and negative; Ad infinitum. When aware of the dichotomous reality of existence, handling life becomes easy. This is how electricians handle electricity without getting injured.

The paradigm of failure is associated with introversion, rather than extroversion, premised on benefiting others. Any person can catalogue a list of causes of failure that point to one conclusion: inward-looking or introversion.

When a marathon runner reflects on himself or thinks about issues affecting his life, he loses the steam and drops out of the competition. There is an element of truth, though, in that a person gets discouraged by other people.

However, the discouragements, coming from outsiders, reflect on the consideration of self-beneficiation. Any course of action, according to the consideration of self-benefits, leads to failure.

Winners are celebrated by others, more than self-celebration. The national championship winner is celebrated by supporters more than himself. The celebrated winner ceases to represent himself when having brought glory to the entire nation. His failure comes at the point of considering his welfare, more than considering the needs of his/her supporters.

From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matthew 16:21-24 NIV).

As fully aware of the trappings of humanity, Jesus avoided Satan’s ambush, presented through Peter. The consideration of Peter’s apparent concern would have drawn Jesus into introversion. Self-defence is commonly considered to be a survival instinct. But, if humanity is stuck in a maze of confusion, self-defence should be regarded as the only cause.

Peter’s behaviour reflected a worldly pattern, prompting Jesus’ rebuke. Peter was a stumbling block, rather than a helpful compatriot to Jesus who had just articulated the inevitable occurrence affecting His life. This development had something to do with the redemption of humanity.

Peter’s desire to save Jesus was satanic, as appealing to introversion.  Jesus’ avoidance of the cross would have been synonymous with Satan. In other words, God’s way of life is about giving; whereas, receiving, as influenced by Satan, suggests introversion.

The problems of introversion include the desire for being appreciated, after helping another person. The idea of exercising kindly acts, in anticipation of reciprocation, projects introversion whose result is death.

Before Jesus, no human being had ever given unconditionally. Even tithing was practised in anticipation of receiving God’s blessings. Jesus came to introduce the principle of giving, as opposed to receiving. The Godly way of life is associated with giving, while death is associated with receiving.

Peter’s attempt to mislead Jesus, sought to reverse the trajectory toward life. Decisions ought to be considered according to other people’s lives. Failure attracts a person’s survival consideration and yet threatens survival.

Giving appears as benefiting the recipient. But it benefits the giver, more than the recipient, in terms of survival consideration. The one who gives is the one who spiritually benefits, rather than the receiver. The confusion comes when a receiver assumes benefiting after having received a gift.

“I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-37 NIV).

To his listeners, Paul highlighted that giving was more blessed when compared to receiving. The aspect of giving exists, even when receiving. By refusing a sincere gift offer from a friend, one denies his friend a blessing associated with giving. Refusing a friend’s gift is not exercising love.

The expression of gratitude, to the giver, should be regarded as another way of practising giving. Expressing one’s gratitude to a giver is a reciprocal principle, but reversing the giver’s blessing. The gratitude, granted to the giver, settles the transaction, thereby, leaving the giver without a Godly blessing.

The common practice is that a giver expects to be showered with a raving appreciation for his kind act. That encourages the giver to continue exercising giving. Unfortunately, the raving gratitude that may flow from the recipients settles the exchange transaction.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4 NIV).

Jesus’ disciples were expected to apply everything that Jesus taught. The above Scripture affirms the principle of giving, as opposed to receiving. The instruction is that giving when spurred by the anticipation of being appreciated, nullifies the Godly reward.

This does not mean the recipients should not desire to recognize the givers. Naturally, they eagerly desire to express their appreciation to givers. That is common, and that is what relieves them from their void. Reciprocation, through expressing their gratitude, restores their dignity.

By expressing gratitude, the recipients attract more from givers. The only disadvantage for those recipients would be succumbing to idolatry. Rather than praising God, they become stuck, worshipping and praising generous givers, rather than God.

The most excellent giving is anonymous, where recipients direct their gratitude to God. James also commended this type of giving, as fulfilling the requirements of true believers.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:26-27 NIV).

Widows and orphans cannot offer reciprocation, to givers who would have given anonymously. However, when publicized, the givers become polluted. Jesus said such givers would have received their rewards. They would be included among those not recognized by Jesus at His second coming.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).

This suggests that there would be unfairness if Jesus denounces those givers without having unveiled this instruction. Good-standing believers are probably in this category. If alive, they could graciously take advantage of this revelation and repent.

However, there is no doubt that others would denounce this revelation, describing it as irrelevant. Many generous gifts known in this world are a result of good publicity. Some pastors encourage publicity, to spur more giving. But the above Scripture sternly warns against that behaviour.

Practising Christianity is not a matter of gratifying personal ego. The scanty knowledge of Christianity should be regarded as undesirable. When one chooses to be Jesus’ follower, one should go all the way.

The confusion is caused by listening to many voices. This was aptly projected in one of Hosiah Chipanga’s Shona musical compositions, highlighting Christian confusion. This is caused by many preachers, with different interpretations of the Bible. Loosely translated the song goes like this:

(There is one Church, and one God, the only problem is that there are many preachers. One accepts repentance today. But after having been approached by another preacher, one accepts repentance again. This goes over and over again until the person ends up going round and round in circles).

Each of the referred preachers comes with an authoritative stance. A convert may have been baptized in some particular way, from one denomination. But later, the other denominational leader comes asserting to know better. This requires rebaptism, according to the new understanding.

This describes the confusion advanced in Chipanga’s lyrical composition. He then comically portrays a confused convert, going round and round in circles. Chipanga’s viewpoint is that God’s Church is one, and God is one—making it unnecessary to go from one Church to another.

Tolerance, therefore, denotes another idea of giving. Tolerance means not invalidating another person, who would be guided by his/her understanding of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus is the only authority in Christianity. But, even the term “Christian,” although commonly accepted, as describing Christ’s followers, was not originated by Jesus.

Safety complies with Jesus’ teachings. The additives, though appealing to a convert, should not be taken as doctrine. This cannot be a problem when Christ is taken as the only authority.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12 NIV).

The endemic fear, gripping Christians, leads to clustering under some denomination that one belongs to. This denotes the idea of introversion. The principle of giving, inviting extroversion would not be applied.

For instance, if baptized through a Sabbath-keeping denomination, introversion may present a challenge. The Church leader might feel threatened, sensing the danger of disunity, from those not subscribing to Sabbath-keeping.

However, this ceases to be problematic when adopting Christ’s teachings, only, as doctrine. Tolerance is another way of exercising the principle of giving. The convert would be allowed to adopt what appeals to him. Applying what Paul suggested to the Romans fosters unity.

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.  Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord can make them stand” (Romans 14:1-4 NIV).

The whole chapter covers all aspects of disputable matters. Allowing each member to exercise the principle of giving, promotes peace. This is as workable as it is, even in married couples. Paul practised this to the Corinthians, as well. He never allowed his viewpoints to dominate, except where necessary, to apply the doctrine, per Christ’s teachings.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law” (1 Corinthians 9:19-21 NIV).

The behaviour of Paul is uncommon for introverts who think about themselves, ahead of others. As a Jew, Paul was not free from God’s laws, but he could not impose Jewish laws on others. Under Christ’s law, he had to allow extroversion to take its course. The converts had to live according to their conviction. The law of Christ is that of giving or extroversion.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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