More happiness in giving

‘There is more happiness in giving than receiving’ is a saying that appears in Paul’s farewell to the Ephesians (Acts 20:36). We would probably agree, at least in our better moments.

We have a sense that the joy we give to others is, at that moment, precious and far outweighs the kind of joy we experience when we receive something. We feel we are somehow giving life. Every mother purrs within when she sees the expression on her baby’s face on receiving some expression of love.

‘Fill each other’s cup’ the prophet Khalil Gibran advises newly-weds and from their mutual love new life will come. Marriage is the greatest expression of this threefold love that we know. Romeo loves Juliet and when their love is marked by tragedy it only heightens our sense of it.

Such thoughts might swirl around our minds like clouds around high mountains hiding the peaks – I write this surrounded by Swiss snow capped mountains – when we try to reflect on the Trinity.

We do not often pay a great deal of attention to it but God has revealed to us that there is an inner life of relationship within the Divine Being. Moses rejoiced in God’s revelation to Israel; ‘did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive?’ (Deut:4:33). But Moses had no idea about the identity of the ‘prophet’ who was to come.

The act of giving has its origin in God who is himself a Trinity. We often describe this as the Father giving himself to the Son who gives himself back to the Father and their love is the Spirit. This is all rather abstract language but Paul, in Romans (Ch. 8) neatly expresses the new revelation; we have received the Spirit of God who enables us to become co-heirs with Jesus Christ. And the gospel of Matthew simply states without explanation that Jesus sent his apostles to ‘make disciples of all the nations. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

We do not know how the early church understood such a command any more than we understand it ourselves. But we do know that it is a command that draws us into the life of God in a way that will only be fully understood in the future. And we also know that it is about relationships which in themselves are all about giving and receiving. So that, even if the Church’s belief about the Trinity seems remote from our every day concerns, it is actually the very stuff of our daily lives. Take giving and receiving out of them and you are, as it were, removing the air we breathe.

Post published in: Faith

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