Wednesday, September 26, 2018
The Gift Economy (Newsletter)
While we love to give and receive from each other, there’s something particularly holy about gifts given and received in unblemished love. Sure, we like to hear Thank you and You’re Welcome, but in a pure, gift economy, the gift is given without subversive expectations of reciprocation, and the gift is received without the burden of indebtedness.
When strings – implicit or explicit – are attached to giving, the gift is lost. It becomes a mere investment, or the trading of favors. The ethics behind investment giving and receiving creates rigid hierarchies where the wealthy and powerful are always trying to trade up for influence and advantage. The more people indebted to them, the more powerful they become. These hierarchies can create a certain amount of civil order, but they inevitably create resentment and envy, at both personal and cultural levels.
By contrast, the ethics behind a gift economy, which is based on the cornerstones of gratitude and generosity (i.e. grace), creates community.
In September we held our annual Alternative Gift Fair. The original purpose of alternative giving is to provide the opportunity to give something other than “stuff” to each other during Christmas and for birthdays. Alternative giving offers a way at least to dabble in the pure gift economy. It’s a chance to give something out of simple gratitude, generosity, and abundance. We give to help mitigate specific human needs, so, instead of putting something material between ourselves and the person whom we recognize with an alternative gift, we scatter that gratitude and generosity like the sower scattering seeds.
We will continue accepting Alternative Gift Fair donations through the month of October. If you haven’t already given, please consider making a gift. The 2018 recipients are The River, Family Promise, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (all gifts going to Hurricane Florence recovery), and Sunset Gap. We will have cards available if you wish to send someone a note saying that you have remembered them with a pure gift, a gift given to enrich the life of someone else in their honor, or in memory of someone you both loved.
Remember Paul’s words: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”(2 Cor. 9:7) The word cheerfulcan also be translatedmerryorglad.These words describe an unencumbered heart, one in the midst of rejoicing. A gift cheerfully given is a gift offered for the sheer joy of sharing. And thatis the heart that knows the blessedness of giving over receiving.