God Loves a Cheerful Receiver

by the Rev. Paul McLain


Throughout my life, I have heard the adage, ‘God loves a cheerful giver,’ particularly during church stewardship drives. But I have never heard anyone say, ‘God loves a cheerful receiver.’ I wonder why that is. I think we all want to be givers or feel we’re in a position to give. There is joy in giving to help someone else or a cause bigger than ourselves.


But if we’re brutally honest, there is often a power dynamic that comes from being a giver. I confess that I have felt ‘puffed up’ from the superiority that comes from knowing that I am blessed with resources, talents, time, or whatever else I ‘have’ that I can dispose of in whatever way I choose.


Recently, I have experienced some jolts, a literal one in a car accident last October and then difficult ones with Ruthie’s shoulder replacement surgery in the fall and hospitalization with an infection over the last couple of weeks. Thanks to your prayers, the grace of God, and an amazing medical team, we’re both doing much better.


I was reluctant to accept the many offers of help from many of you, in part because of pride. I want to be and to be seen as the giver, not the receiver. During the last few months, and especially the last couple of weeks, I have tried to let go of my pride and learn to accept the gifts of others, partly out of necessity.


There is something beautiful about receiving. It is wonderful to see the smiles on your faces and feel the joy in your hearts as you have an opportunity to give something to help Ruthie and me during a difficult time. It gives my heart deep joy to feel your loving care. And it is life-giving to acknowledge that I am a vulnerable human being, who is sometimes in a position to give and sometimes in a position to receive. I am learning that both are equally valid ways of being.


I love the more intimate Pentecost story of the imparting of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John. Instead of the whirlwind and fire of the story in Acts, Jesus simply breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples. All they have to do is breathe it in, accept it as a gift, and graciously receive it.


These last couple of weeks, I have been learning how to breathe in your gifts. By no means have I become a perfect receiver. But I am becoming a cheerful receiver. And I am certainly a grateful receiver. Thank you!

9 thoughts on “God Loves a Cheerful Receiver”

  1. Paul, thank you for one of most beautiful descriptions I have ever read about the pathway to Light and Love through the gift of allowing ourselves to receive instead of giving.

    1. You’re welcome, Mimsy. Glad you found this reflection meaningful. Hope and pray you are feeling better and you are finding light and love in receiving the gifts of others who deeply care about you.

  2. Paul, a beautiful reflection on the power of the Eastern concept of karma. If we are givers, we also have to be gracious receivers in order to let others be givers. . . and it all continues in an endless cycle. Thank you for playing your (and Ruthie’s) role in this cycle.

  3. This is right up there with praying for one’s self. Hard to do for some perverse reasoning on our part. Fortunately, as I age, I am getting better at asking for help and receiving it joyfully. As a (really old) friend used to say, “I don’t want help. I want someone to do it ALL.”
    This is a wonderful message. Glad to hear that Ruthie -and therefore, you – are so much better.

    1. Nancy,
      One of the gifts of aging is that we begin to let go of ego and pretenses, and we learn to joyfully accept the help of others. Thanks for your prayers, support, and healing thoughts for Ruthie and me.

  4. Oh Paul,
    Thank you for this lovely acceptance and sharing your vulnerability about receiving. After sharing a very special Waffle Shop lunch with you, when we parted to go on our way, We had a moment that told me clearly how you appreciated the giving and the receiving. And yes, you are a giver every day. I have been thankful to receive your care and grateful you received mine♥️♥️

    1. You’re welcome, Zada. You have helped teach me that the spiritual journey is less about being transactional and more about just being in whatever form we need to be for each other at different times along the path. Thanks for giving your caring heart and generous spirit to Ruthie and me, and graciously receiving our hearts along the way.

  5. Paul- thank you for a beautiful reminder. It is a gift to receive- a gift to the giver! Love and prayers for you and Ruthie. Mary

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