Ready to Receive
By Anthony Casperson
In many video games—especially RPGs that have a large amount of party members—there’s a mechanic that simulates relational growth between characters. Sometimes, it’s on a blatant meter that gives you an exact number. And other times it’s more of a hidden mechanic. But it always revolves around a character being given a gift of some sort.
The player character gives some trinket or candy or other object to another character of the game. And then, above the head of the one given the gift there’s a symbol of a heart or a number or some auditory signal that the person liked the gift. This then means that the relational meter has grown. The two are now closer because the gift has been given.
With this game mechanic, the amount of “relational points” added is dependent upon the type of gift given. There’s always going to be a gift that is a character’s favorite and will give the max amount of points. Then, there’ll be a handful of gifts that add a little less of the points to the meter. And a large number of gifts might not add a whole lot, but will increase the amount by 1.
But, depending on the game, some gifts won’t increase the relational meter. Instead, they’ll decrease the number. That meter might even decrease so much because of repeated “bad” gifts that the character comes to hate the player character. Or leave the party entirely.
This mechanic sends some players—like me—to the internet to figure out the gifts that the other characters like so that they can increase this relational meter to the max as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you know the perfect gifts to give, then you don’t have to waste time and effort to give them something, only to find that it has the wrong effect. All because the person stands passively, waiting for the gift to be given, and then sneers at anything that they think is worthless.
To many of us, this whole mechanic sounds ridiculous and unrealistic. Most people don’t like or hate others based solely off of how good of a gift others give them—even if they do fall into the category of people who experience love most strongly through receiving gifts. But there is something that we can learn from this game mechanic.
And it’s not about giving gifts.
As a matter of fact, the thing we can learn doesn’t even put us in the place of the gift-giver. But rather the receiver.
I, for one, am much more inclined to interact with the relational meter in a game if I know that every gift will be appreciated. Sure, some gifts might be more prized than others—and I hope to learn what those specifics are, hence my tendency to internet search—but when any gift will add something, then the other character seems less like a selfish hoarder. Instead, they embody the idea of “it’s the thought that counts.” They see the good in the gift, so they’re more likely to see the good in my character, even if I’m not perfectly what they wanted either.
The person who’s ready to receive, regardless of the quality of the gift, is the one whom others want to give to. And this is because we know that we won’t get our hands bitten off for offering the “wrong” thing. Even a “bad” gift can be seen for the love behind the giving.
Therefore, what we can learn is to be a type of person who is always ready to receive. Not because then we’ll get all of the good presents. But rather, because then we can return the same love to those willing to give to us.
And we can see this same lesson from the passage for this blog in our “Summer on the Mount” series, Matthew 7:6-12. Strangely, part of the passage is also one that people often consider to be about giving instead of being the one receiving.
With verse 6 being a transition among Jesus’ points, it’s important to remember the previous passage and its purpose. The first few verses of chapter 7 spoke about judgement. Not the denigration of judgement, but the reminder that judgement will come for us all. We can’t escape it, even if we sit on the judgement seat.
Thus, we should tend to our own judgement so that we can better help others when it comes to dealing with theirs. No one wants a person who sees so badly that they miss their own gaping wound to help them tend to their problems. It’s important to consider our own issues before helping others, so that we can be a good giver of judgement.
And verse 6 shows us the flip side of this equation. Instead of the one bestowing justice being a bad giver, this verse shows the receiver of judgement in the negative light. Jesus pictures some bad gift receivers as wild dogs or pigs. (Yes, I just equated judgement and a gift. Jesus did it first. And he’s God. So…I guess it’s gotta be true.)
Both of these types of animals had a negative connotation to the Jewish people in Jesus’ original audience. We understand the pigs pretty easily. They were unclean to the Jews. And even today, the muck-dwelling snout-sniffers are considered rather disgusting creatures.
However, when it comes to dogs, we tend to think about the tail-wagging pals that are man’s best friend. But in the culture of Jesus’ day, dog’s weren’t pets. Or pals. Or friends. No, they were pests. Scavengers. Feral creatures who would snarl and bite long before their tail wagged. Think more junkyard dog, with a hint of vulture.
Jesus tells us to consider the type of person we’re trying to help with our clear-sighted justice. Some people won’t receive a gift well, no matter what it is, simply because of the person they are.
It wouldn’t matter if you took the choice parts of a sacrifice straight off of God’s altar and tossed it to a hungry wild dog. It would snap exactly the same at that as it would if you tossed garbage at it. All because that is the nature of the beast. And the same is true of pigs in the sty. A person could throw costly jewelry at a pig, and it would be just as likely to charge at the giver as it would if they threw a mud clot at the creature. Even trampling the costly item as if it were the same as dirt.
We can approach some people with the gift of clear-sighted judgement, and they’ll hate us for it. It’s not because the judgement is bad of wrong, but simple because that’s the type of person they are. No gift is good enough for them. That relational meter will always hit a negative result.
But this is not how we should be. Instead, we should be people who not only appreciate the gifts given to us, but also move beyond passively waiting for good to come to us. Specifically, when it comes to judgement. We shouldn’t just take self reflections, but also seek out others to help us with the specks and beams and whole trees that protrude from our eyes.
Most look at verses 7-8 of this passage and think of God as some genie that grants all of our wishes. Or as a vending machine that produces whatever our “faith dollars” can buy. But it’s not about being given the best gifts. The idea here is about asking to be more holy like God, seeking to grow in relationship with him and others, knocking to experience the fullness of the kingdom of God.
It’s about pursuing God’s justice in ourselves, so that we can glorify him better and help others grow better in their relationships with him.
Rather than being wild dogs and pigs who attack anyone who approaches us with good things, let us be people who seek out the good that God and others have for us, even if it hurts to hear that judgement fall on us.
Ask, seek, and knock because God will give and find and open. When we go after the very things that God knows are best for us, he’ll want to give it to us as if it were the “best” gift on our relational meter. Only the end result isn’t a pretend friendship. It’ll be the best relationship we can ever have.
We should have no fear to ask, seek, and knock either. Because God is a better giver than we’ve ever experienced. That’s what Jesus is taking about, in verses 9-11, when he asks his audience who among them would try to fool their own child with a gift that kinda looks like the thing they asked for, but definitely is not.
Who would have their child ask for food and then give them a rock that’s painted to look like a roll? Who would be asked for a fish, only to provide a long, wriggling creature that also happens to pack quite the bite? Only a jerk-face of a waste of space.
That’s the good thing about God not being a genie, he won’t try to find a way to twist every wish we have. There’s no monkey’s paw with him. Instead, he knows the good we need before we even ask. And wants to give it to us when we’re ready for it.
We must be willing to look for the good of every gift, including judgement, because God wants to give us the best. But that is not where Jesus’ words stop. He continues by telling us to pass on what we have been given from God, just like how we wish others would do for us. We shouldn’t hoard the good. No, we should give that same good to others. This is why we help others with clear-eyed judgement.
Because that’s what we’d always wish was done with us.
The whole of the Law and the Prophets—the entire Old Testament—pointed to this. It’s why the various laws and prophetic words always point us to God’s ways. He knows our best. And wants to give it to us. So, when we act like him, giving the gift of his judgement that we have also received, we give what is best for others. And that includes when they receive poorly, snapping at or charging us when we give.
For the same reasons that we want others to take the log out of their eye before they help us with the speck in ours, we should be willing to receive the gift of clear-eyed judgement when we need that speck removed. If we don’t receive well the gift, we’re not any better than a dog snapping at someone offering them a choice piece of meat. Or a pig charging at someone who gave us something valuable. Or that video game character who left the party all because their relationship meter refused to accept something we thought they’d like.
Take a second, not to think about all of the people you know who are bad receivers, but to consider—with clear-eyed judgement—your own willingness to receive less-than-preferred gifts. Can someone come to you with news of a speck in your eye without you thinking about all of their problems? (How dare they.) Can they offer you constructive criticism without you getting defensive or angry or depressed for the rest of the day?
If not, then you might have just found another of those spiritual eye-issues that need to get taken care of.
And when we do remove that problem, learning to receive any gift well, then we can not only discover that many things are good gifts, but also pass them along to others. If we wish that God would give us good, and that people would treat us with clear-eyed judgement, then should we not also expect to do the same? Maybe even be the one to start the process in our relationships with others?
Let’s learn to receive well. Seek. Ask. Knock. And we will find not only a God ready to find, answer, and open, but also people to pass that discovery, truth, and path onto.