Once upon a time, King David had a group of mighty men. They did some pretty epic things.
There was a time when David was living in a cave and the Philistines had a garrison of soldiers at Bethlehem, which was where David grew up. David said, apparently to no one in particular, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!”
Three of his mighty men were like, “Hey. We can do that! Let’s go get some of this water for David and cheer him up.” So they did. They fought through the Philistines and came back to David, all still in one piece, mission accomplished.
I imagine they were pretty excited to give that water to David. They’d gone to a lot of effort to bring him a surprise they knew for a fact he wanted. Surely he would be pleased.
What did David do with that water?
He poured it out.
On the ground.
He had a reason that sounded nice, at least: “Far be it from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”
I would have been so miffed. “DUDE! Really?! Yeah, we risked our lives, but we chose to because we cared about you and wanted you to enjoy this water, not DUMP IT ON THE GROUND. Come on, man!”
Hopefully these three mighty men were more noble than I am and appreciated the sentiment. But I really can’t imagine David’s actions went over well.
(If you care to read this story minus my creative liberty, it is found in 2 Samuel 23:13-17 and 1 Chronicles 11:15-19.)
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This also comes from the Bible: Acts 20:35. It’s certainly true and a good reminder. But here’s the thing: If no one will receive, no one can give.
People do not like allowing others to give to them, and I don’t understand it. I’m not just talking about giving things. Also time, help with projects… Sacrifices in general.
Have you ever noticed that people who say, “I can’t ask you to do that,” never asked? They’re always protesting something another person volunteered to do. Then there’s the oft-heard, “You don’t have to do that.”
Let me explain to you a thing. For the most part, if someone cares about you, they are not giving because they have to. They are giving because your happiness is important to them, and contributing to it, in ways large or small, brings them joy and makes them feel useful.
Another thing: Sometimes people give in ways you cannot repay. That’s okay. Now, selfishness? That is not okay. But inability is. Giving is not a math problem; you don’t have to give back to the same people in exact quantities to make things come out right. Sometimes life makes that impossible. But you can love them, appreciate them, and give to others where you can.
(Disclaimer: I realize that trying to say no to unexpected gifts is kind of the norm in our society. And sometimes you may have excellent reasons for saying no. Use discretion. But don’t turn generous offers into a drawn out who-gets-to-be-nicer battle without good reason.)
Be generous with what God has given you in money, talents, time, whatever. Allow other people to be generous, too. Thank them. Thank God for them. Don’t pour the water they bring you on the ground.