What Do I Even Take From You?
That dagger was thrust at me by someone I love very much. Someone close who declines invitations for meals. Someone who doesn’t realize that sometimes to receive is to give—that sometimes not to take is to take.
Honestly, before this week I hadn’t realized it either. I had never thought about giving and taking this way. Not until I learned a new word.
Enter lambano. It’s a Greek word occurs about 260 times in the New Testament. About half the time, lambano is translated “receive,” as in Matthew 7:8, “Whoever asks, receives,” and Matthew 20:10, “He received a denarius.”
Nothing to write home about. But there’s more. Lambano is also translated “take,” as in Matthew 5:50, “If anyone wants to take your tunic,” and Matthew 10:38, “Take up your cross.”
Yes, and? Why does lambano deserve its own post? And what even does it have to do with my dagger wound?
What you don’t take is what you take.
Picture a chubby little palm holding out dandelions, or yellow forsythia blossoms. Not to receive them would be cruel.
What did you even take?
I answered the one I love with tears first. Then this.
You took my joy. By not taking, by not eating with me, you deprive me the pleasure of giving.
Because sometimes the best gift we can give is lambano—to take and to receive. Conversely, sometimes the most heartless thing we can do is not to take a thing.
Which reminds me of The Count of Monte Cristo. I read it 20 years ago, but that scene is etched. Near the end of the book, the Count attends a banquet at his enemy’s home. He will not eat a bite of the rich food offered to him.
Why? Because to eat his food would be a sign of friendship. To not take was to take. Not to eat was a dagger.
God is eager to help.
God wants to feed his children. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 89:10b) God himself told the Israelites. He wants us to take food and help, to receive life and health from him. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). Our Father “hears prayer” (Psalm 65:2), and listens to our pleas (Psalm 66:19).
He wants us to call to him because he wants to give us his help. Our cries for help don’t bother God.
The Psalms in particular celebrate God’s eagerness to hear and help his people in their “day of distress” and “time of trouble.” David testified that God had been to him “a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress” (Psalm 59:16, also 9:9; 37:39; 41:1).David Mathis, “God will Answer in Your Crisis“
If God calls us to call upon Him and He is eager to give us help, then it’s not a big stretch to think that not receiving his help might actually grieve him (Ephesians 4:30). I’ve written before how “grieve is a love word.” You can’t grieve people who don’t love you.
Which brings me to the dagger.
Taking is giving.
Meals, time, love—this is what I want to give. My dear, when you don’t receive these from me you take.
This little dagger wound and grief is a gift in that it helps me love God more. The perfect Father knows infinitely better than I could ever imagine what it is to have dear ones refuse to receivefrom him. (See Isaiah 30:1-22.)
At their peril they refuse to to take his food, his drink, himself.
All day long, he held out his hands to a rebellious people (Isaiah 65:2). All the while he offers food that will satisfy and water that will quench to the the end (John 6:35, 4:14).
But his people won’t all receive.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.Isaiah 30:18a, NIV
Our generous God wants to give. So our good Father longs to give, and in godlike fashion, he exalts himself to show us compassion.
And he waits for us to take.
God wants to give, so take.
The world’s religion are summed up in the idea that you must give something to appease the gods. But the essence of Christianity is the exactly the opposite. We are invited not to give, but lambano, to take.
We can’t bring anything to save or commend ourselves to God, but we can take the salvation He offers.
One of the very last sentences in the Bible includes lambano, take.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.Revelation 22:17
What an invite! C.H. Spurgeon notes, “All the prophets of the Bible, all the apostles of the Bible, all the threatenings of the Bible, all the promises of the Bible, gather themselves up, and focus themselves into this one burning ray, ‘Come to Jesus. Come, and take the water of life freely.’”
Who could imagine such grace?
So come, take, eat.