The Circle of Giving

Give said the little stream,
Give, oh give, Give, oh give,
Give said the little stream
As it hurried down the hill.
I am small I know, but wherever I go
The grass grows greener still.

When I was in second grade this was my favorite song. I had no idea it held the secret to life in God’s universe. We don’t know a lot about Eden. We’ve got just a few words from the ancient manuscript, but one thing we know is there was a river in Eden which had four headwaters spreading out to refresh the earth.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden
and from there divides into four rivers.
-Genesis 2:10

Like the rivers flowing out of Eden, God designed the entire universe on the principle of other-centered giving.  A river gives life to everything within its path, while the dead sea does nothing to support life. Water evaporating from the ocean forms into a cloud, the cloud drops snow onto the mountains, which melt into a river, the river completes the circle of giving by flowing back to the ocean, giving life to everything in its path. We can see this circle of giving in the world around us:

  • A tree gives acorns to the squirrel for food, the squirrel gives back by planting the seeds which grow into more trees.
  • A star receiving light from the sun, reflecting  that light to the universe.
  • Electricity also operates in a circle. When we turn off a light switch, we are actually stopping the electrical current which naturally flows in a circle. We have  harnessed this natural force to receive light and power.
  • The circulatory system within the human body also operates in the circle of giving; if circulation is cut off to a leg, it will die.

Every living thing throughout the universe was designed to give. All of life is sustained by the circle of giving. If we choose not to participate, we will die. The most vital example of this is oxygen. Our life depends on oxygen, which comes from the trees that take in the carbon dioxide as we breathe out. The trees give back oxygen for us to survive. If a person refuses to be part of this circle of giving, their only option is to refuse to breathe. We might tie a bag around our face to keep from giving back to the plants, but the end result will eventually be death.

The circle of giving is more than just a physical phenomenon; it also affects us spiritually and emotionally. Scientists have discovered that people who give back are the happiest people on earth. Some studies suggest that giving improves our health, but we don’t need scientific evidence to prove this. When we give to others we experience a sense of exhilaration and joy bringing more life to us.

In the life of Jesus, we see the most glorious example of this circle of giving. Jesus kept healthy boundaries by first spending time with His Father to receive strength before He gave to others. His Father sustained Him physically through forty days without food in the wilderness and prepared Him spiritually to impart life to all He met. When Jesus came back to civilization, He gave other-centered love and healing to everyone who was willing to take it from Him.

It’s important to remember that the circle of giving also includes receiving. Just as Jesus took from His Father, we must take from God in order to be able to give. We can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t keep our blessings to ourselves because it is in the giving that we receive more in order to give again. This principle of this never-ending circle of life is the very sustenance of life in the universe and it reflects God’s character. This universe of other-centered love is the environment in which Adam and Eve were created and designed to thrive and it brings healing for us today.

Give, and you will receive.
Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down,
shaken together to make room for more,
running over, and poured into your lap.
The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Luke 6:38

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