November 8, 1994
My husband and I took my parents to Banff the last long weekend of the summer. They had not been there since 1930 and were excited about the trip. Whenever they do travel, they seldom stay in hotels so we decided to book the executive suite at Douglas Fir Resort, a two bedroom unit with full kitchen, large living and super-large dining room. For us, it was a delight to give them the finest they had ever experienced.
My mother, unaccustomed to being waited on, never mind indulged, did not know quite how to react. For example, she brought with her two of her own towels, not even her best two. Instead of using the thick, luxurious ones supplied by the hotel, she used her own.
During the weekend, we invited nine others for a surprise family dinner and brought in Chinese food. Mom had difficulty sitting down to eat. Everyone was already enjoying their food yet she hovered over the table, asking if she could get something or do something. When the men later began putting the dishes in the dishwasher (no kidding), she was right there too. One of them finally told her she could play with the grandchildren or have a rest. They had all the help they needed.
As I watched, I realized again how difficult it is for someone who has been a server all their life to be on the receiving end. Mothers are not accustomed to their children doing everything for them. However, it is also important for us to give back. She has been so generous so it is understandable that we want to do the same for her.
The Bible clearly says, “it is better to give than receive,” yet receiving is very important. In fact, no one can become a Christian and give as God wants us to, unless they are willing to be on the receiving end.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and that is not of yourself; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” That means God offers salvation as a gift.
Salvation is the term that covers forgiveness, restoration of our relationship with God and the assurance of eternal life after we physically die. We do not deserve this gift because we sin, but even if we could earn it by our goodness, that is not the means by which God gives it. Instead, He offers it “by grace” as a free gift, to those who are willing, by faith, to receive it.
Our problem with this gift is that we tend to want to do something to earn it. Humbling ourselves before God and admitting we cannot do anything worthy to merit His favor goes against our independence and our pride. But salvation, like a luxurious towel, can belong to anyone because it is the Lord’s “good pleasure” to give. He has no ulterior motives.
Whenever anyone tries to gain salvation apart from faith, they actually are rejecting His gracious offer. Instead of wanting what He freely gives, they are giving preference to their own meager resources. Isaiah, comparing “His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” with our good deeds calls them nothing but “filthy rags.”
Because she is a Christian, my mother can receive, even though it is difficult. Today she let me massage her feet and lend her a sweater. Yesterday, she allowed me to cook her a meal while she watched and chatted. She admits that it feels good to be on the receiving end.
Especially when it comes to grace, I have to agree with her.