In his book "Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a World Stripped of Grace" Theologian Miroslav Volf reflects on the transactional nature of most of our current relationships - that is, we have created a society where we long to receive and we have learned to give in order to encourage that. The idea of giving without concern what what one might gain, or giving when one has nothing to gain, or forgiving without expectin restitution is one which is increasingly alien to our dominant cultures. And this influences our view of the Divine; Volf writes
“Two false images of God are particularly irresistible to many of us – mostly unconsciously. The first I’ll designate as God the negotiator and the other, God the Santa Claus. Though we have fashioned both to serve our interests, they are each other’s opposites. With one, we want to make advantageous deals. From the other, we want to get warm smiles and bagfuls of goodies. We run from one to the other. Some of their features are reminiscent of the God of Jesus Christ. But we’ve drawn these images of God mostly from two currents of the culture in which we swim – the current of hard and unforgiving economic realities, in which we exchange goods to maximize benefits, and the current of soft, even infantile, desires, in which we long to be showered with gifts simply because we exist.”
God loves us unconditionally, and relates to us gracefully and lovingly, but is not a slot-machine skyfairy who dishes out blessings. However, when we are rooted in this deep sense of being loved, and of all things existing within the love of the Divine, we find ourselves giving generously, graciously, of our time, our love, our energy, our selves. We feel deeply the call to forgive others, not at the expense of our own well-being, but to free us from that which binds us and causes us pain - which is a blog post for another time!
Giving out of a sense of gratitude, out of a knowlege of our own belovedness, out of a sense of recognition of how much we are loved, is a giving which doesn't have palpable, easily itemised, rewards - but in itself enlarges us, and creates a more expansive, love-filled world.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.