Are You a Giver or Taker?

Part nine of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #8 – A Successful Person is a Giver Instead of a Taker

By Kevin Riggs

Several years ago I read a story about a thief who decided to siphon gas from a motor home in Seattle, Washington. The owner of the motor home heard a noise, and when he went outside to investigate, he discovered the thief curled up on the ground vomiting. Intending to suck up the contents of the gas tank, the thief—a 14-year-old boy—put his hose into the wrong hole. Instead of stealing gas, the boy sucked up the contents of the sewage compartment.

The Eighth Commandment

Literally, the Eighth Commandment reads, “Not steal”—straight to the point, no explanations. What does God mean when He says, “Thou shalt not steal?” Does this Commandment go beyond taking someone else’s property? What is the principle behind the Command?

In the early days of America there was a settlement whose major source of income was the lumber business. As the town grew, the citizens decided they wanted a church, so they built a beautiful building and called a minister.

One afternoon the minister happened to see some of his church members dragging logs out of the river. These logs had been floated down the river by another town upstream. Each log was clearly marked with the owner’s stamp on one end. To the minister’s great distress he saw his parishioners pull the logs from the river, sawing off the end where the stamp appeared.

The following Sunday he preached a strong sermon on, “Thou shalt not steal.” At the close of the service, his people lined up, shook his hand and replied, “Wonderful message, Pastor. Mighty fine preaching.” But the following week he saw them down at the river pulling out logs and sawing off the ends.

The ne¡<t Sunday he preached the same sermon but gave it a different, more practical ending. He concluded his message by saying, “Thou shalt not cut off the end of thy neighbor’s logs.” When he got through, the congregation ran him out of town.

As long as the Bible talks about the faults of otherpeople, I can handle it, but when the Bible speaks directly to me, I sometimes get angry. Commandment Eight speaks directly to me. As I see it, there are two ways to steal.

Stealing from People

It should be obvious that taking something that does not belong to me is stealing. But there are other ways I steal from people besides taking their possessions. If I continually tell my children they are failures, I am robbing them of self-worth.  If I constantly call my wife names, neglecting her needs, I make her feel less than she is, robbing her of her dignity.

A harsh word here, some slander there; a well-placed put-down here, a little gossip there, all rob from a person, making them feel worthless.

I can also steal a person’s time. When I loaf at work I am stealing. When I work too much and take time away from home, I am stealing time from my family. When I don’t use my time wisely, I am stealing from myself.

Stealing from God

How can I steal from God? Hypocrisy is one way I steal from God. When I say I believe one thing, but live another, I am robbing God of His reputation. If I claim to have put my faith in God, I am His representative on earth. How I live my life is a reflection on Him. My actions tell others about God, and I don’t want to be guilty of stealing His good name.

I also rob God by not giving Him my tithes. Tithing is giving back a portion of my income to God. The amount is between God and me, but I am convinced it needs to be at least a tenth of all I receive. I tithe, not because God needs it or the church begs for it, I tithe because doing so is recognition that all I have belongs to Him.

Habit #8

Commandment Eight is negative, but the habit springing out of it is positive. God asks me not to steal because my life should be characterized by giving instead of taking. Therefore the eighth habit is as follows: A highly successful person is a giver instead of a taker.

It is easy to think I have a God-given right to have all my needs met . . . right now. It is easy to deceive myself into thinking it is everyone’s responsibility to meet my needs. If I am not careful, I will spend my life taking.

In the middle of my selfishness, God says I am to be a giver. How do I know if I am a giver or a taker? Four attitudes characterize a taker. First, a taker’s attitude is, get all you can and can all you get. A taker hoards what he does have and does not share. A taker lets the needs of others go without notice.

Second, a taker thinks, everyone owes me. A taker has a chip on his shoulder. A taker doesn’t feel bad when he cheats on his taxes or loafs at work.

Third, a taker’s attitude is to look out for number one. A taker’s wants and desires come before anyone else’s.

Closely related to this attitude is the fourth attitude—me, me, me, me.  A taker is selfish. If anyone gets in the way of what a taker wants, the taker runs over them.

On the other hand, a giver recognizes, all I have comes from God and belongs to Him. This keeps things in perspective. A giver gives back to God knowing it all comes from Him in the first place. A giver gives to others because he knows God will meet his own needs.

Second, a giver continually asks, is there a need in someone’s life I can meet? A giver sacrifices to meet the needs of his spouse and children. Furthermore, if there is someone at work, church, school, neighborhood or even a complete stranger who has a need, a giver strives to meet that need.

Why does a giver look for needs to meet? Because the third attitude of a giver is the attitude: I want to be a blessing to others. Closely related is the fourth attitude: I am here to serve, not be served. A giver puts the other person’s wants and desires ahead of his own.  A giver realizes true satisfaction comes from helping and serving people.

My basic human instinct is to be a taker. It goes against my nature to be a giver, but truth is truth: A highly successful person is a giver instead of a taker. What is it that transforms a taker into a giver? It is the grace of God. When I come to a full realization of all God has given me, and all He has sacrificed for me, it will motivate me to give back to Him and give to others.

Are you a taker or a giver? Do you need to change your attitude? Have you stolen from others by taking something? Have you robbed someone of their dignity through your words or actions? Do you need to seek forgiveness? Do you need to make restitution? Have you robbed from God? What do you need to do to change from being a taker to being a giver?

Article adapted from Contact magazine, October 2002.