Many ingredients of the spirituality of stewardship are counterintuitive. None more so than this: “Stewardship is based on the need of the giver to give more than on the need of the receiver to receive.”
Most of us have been conditioned to be need-based givers. If someone has a need they should present their case and, if we agree with both the cause and the need, then we think about giving. Need-based giving is unfortunately the bedrock of most, if not all, church-related giving of “time, talent and treasure.” While need-based giving is good. It takes a while to unlearn our conditioning to be needed. Henri Nouwen, a spiritual author, said, “If I can only give and not receive, then the only honest thing to do is question why I give.”
There has to be a balance between giving and receiving. To give is to be in control; to receive is to be vulnerable. How many times have you learned from a friend that he or she needed help but did not ask for it? How many times have you been offended because that friend did not ask for help? How many times have you needed help but did not ask for it? True sharing can only happen if it is reciprocal.
If we enjoy giving, then we should be willing to receive as well. Only a small percentage of us will ever be able to enjoy receiving but that should be our goal. It is good to give a friend a listening ear; it is better if there are times when we are the speaker and allow our friend to be the listener. It is good when we carve spaces in our schedules to be present to a neighbor; it is better if there are times when we are willing to ask our neighbor to carve out time for us.
One of the mysteries of our Christian faith is that it is not based on either/or but both/and. It is not giving or receiving that should be the mark of our stewardship but giving and receiving.