For several years of blogging I had it all wrong, and I wasn’t wrong only in blogging, but in all of life. I believed that the way to measure success with this blog was to keep an eye on statistics, to measure growth in readership over a period of weeks or months or years, and to do the things that were necessary to stimulate that kind of growth. Where I saw growth in the number of readers I believed I had succeeded and where I saw a drop in the number of readers I believed that I had failed.
But somewhere along the way I came to understand and to reflect on a much bigger and wider principle that applies not only to blogging but to all of life. It is the principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive (see Acts 20:35). This is hardly an obscure passage or a verse that Christians have forgotten about, but it was one that was demanding application in my life. Once I began to ponder and apply it, it completely re-adjusted my evaluation of blogging and called me to re-assess any measure of success. It re-adjusted my evaluation of a lot of life.
For a long time I was stingy in linking to other sites, thinking that in some strange way affirming another person’s success or contribution was lowering my own, as if a vote for them was a vote against me. I suppose this intersects what I have written about in The Lost Sin of Envy. But then I came to see that the most exciting part of having a growing blog is not the growing number of readers but the increased sending capacity. Deeper joy is found in blessing others with readers, in drawing attention to other people’s efforts, than in drawing attention to my own. Where I had once been deliberate in not pointing to other sites and other articles, suddenly I found great joy in it. Buried in a dashboard that collects important statistics related to my site’s health is a little meter that keeps track of how many people have clicked from my site to someone else’s—it is a number that can reach into tens of thousands a day. Few metrics are more encouraging.
Once I saw this principle in effect in something as mundane as a web site, I began to see it elsewhere in my life.
I saw it in my finances when I realized that the joy of a big or overflowing savings account completely pales in comparison to the joy of giving money to those who need it more urgently and who can use it more profitably. If I want to experience joy I will find it more in obedience to God’s commands regarding generosity than in the illusion of financial security or over-abundance. It is far more blessed to give than to receive or to hoard.
I saw it in my local church when we planted another church and sent off a lot of our most mature, contributing members. We even sent away several of my dearest friends. Yet even in the pain of separation and the pain of being left without the ministry of people who brought such blessing, was a deep-rooted joy. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
I see today it in my family in those times when everything in me is crying out that I deserve more, that I deserve to be served, that I deserve to be served by just being left alone. I’m so tired! I’m worn out! Yet if I pry myself off the couch and break out Ticket to Ride or Dominion or just declare that it’s time for a house-wide game of Sardines, the Lord proves once again that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
It is a principle that applies all over life and ministry. I am a long way from mastering this principle and all its implications. But I can attest—and have to remind myself often—that the Lord means what he says, and that the joy that comes through obedience, the joy that comes through giving, is deeper and better and more satisfying than the fleeting joy that comes through hoarding. It actually is more blessed to give than to receive.