There are all kinds of relationships in the world. When you are in the ministry, it is especially crucial that you learn how to evaluate each relationship in your life for what it is.

As one called to the ministry, you will constantly be approached by new people with different motives—and often by people who have hidden agendas. The starting point in learning to discern these relationships is to understand the two basic categories of people in life: givers and takers. In other words, there are those who come into your life to give and to be a blessing to you and to others, and there are those who come to see what they can get from you.

Let’s now examine the motives, attitudes, and actions of givers and takers. In doing this comparative study, it is my hope that you will search your own heart, give yourself an honest appraisal, and assess in which category you fall. Remember, relationships will eventually disintegrate if one or both parties are takers. If you seem to have consistent problems within your relationships, you need to evaluate whether you have been contributing to them or leeching from them.

I would also encourage you to scrutinize each of your associations to determine if you are in relationship with a giver or with a taker. If you find that you are attempting to single-handedly sustain a one-sided relationship, I would urge you to discontinue that relationship as soon as possible.

Let’s investigate nine different aspects of relationship and see how the Law of Mutual Benefit is either hindered or enhanced by takers and givers, respectively.

 1. Value

When a giver pursues a relationship, he has one thing on his mind — he wants to add value. He is constantly searching for ways that he can esteem more, appreciate more, contribute more, and honor more. His focus is to bring greater weight to bear on the dreams and desires of his partner, and to continually add significance and worth to his partner’s pursuits.

In sharp contrast, a taker is not looking to add, but rather to extract value from the relationship. He might see that being associated with this particular person can potentially bring him more respect, honor, and recognition. His desire is to gain greater merit and support for his own pursuits by attaching himself to what he perceives to be a prestigious, prominent, or influential individual. He disguises himself as a giver, one who is in your life to add value, but internally you sense that the opposite is true.

The taker is continually searching for a more influential individual who will bring him greater benefits. The giver, on the other hand, creatively searches for ideas and ways to increase his value to the relationship.

The taker continually looks for connections whose influences surpass what his present circle of relationships offers. He is constantly scanning the horizon for “better contacts” and has no loyalty to the people he presently serves.

The giver is also conducting a search; however, it’s not for better contacts. It is for better ways of honoring and serving the ones to whom he has given his loyalty.

The giver goes to his boss and asks what it would take to become more valuable. She will go to her spouse to find out how she can better fulfill the role God gave her in their marriage relationship. The giving son or daughter will go to his or her parents to find out how to become more pleasing, more obedient, and how to fulfill every dream that the parents have for him or her. The taker does the exact opposite. He is a user. His self-indulgent attitude is an abomination.

My wife Linda is an incredible giver. She has given me the best years of her life. Linda loved me and cared for me when I was nothing. Linda will now get the best years of my life, in gratitude and in thankfulness, for having to put up with all the pressures of my life. Linda will always hold a voice in my life, even in my darkest hour.

When God puts people like Linda into your life, you keep them close to you. You don’t just arbitrarily remove such voices because they no longer say the words that you want to hear.

Never allow the gifts that have been bestowed upon you to ever eclipse the one who bestowed them. I’ll never forget the day that someone I once trusted sat across the desk from me and said, “The only reason that I wanted a relationship with you was because I knew what it would do for me.” That statement revealed to me that all along, I had been in relationship with a taker and a user. Those words crushed me, and I am not sure I am completely done with them yet.

Givers energetically celebrate the people who have deposited goodness into them and have brought them to a place of success and favor. They celebrate their mentors in huge fashion, for this attitude of gratitude and humility keeps them from proudly thinking about the giftings in their own lives.

True givers never let the gifts they’ve received become more important to them than the giver of those gifts. Remember, the most inspired ideas for adding value in a relationship will spring from the fertile ground of a grateful heart.

 2. Benefit

A giver is ever searching for what he can contribute to the relationship. However, the ever-present thought of a taker is, “What’s in it for me?” He wants others to show an interest in his exploits and achievements. He searches for personal projects that would qualify for the support of influential givers.

As a son, I never ask for my fathers in the faith to be involved in anything that I do. I’m looking for a way to be involved with what they do. My question is, “What can I do for you?” not “What can you do for me?” It’ll be that way until the day they die.

The taker wants to own what the giver has earned through his seed. He will ask, “Why should God do all that for you? Don’t you think you should share some of what God has given you?” This is his approach because he is a prodigal, who only wants to own what the giver has earned.

The giver wants to know what his mentor has learned so that he can apply that wisdom in order to bring a contribution and a harvest back into the life of his mentor. He knows that the greatest truths in life do not come by learning something and walking away. The greatest truths come when you choose to hang on, even when circumstances aren’t the way that you want them to be.

I grew up believing that whatever didn’t serve me was unnecessary and that I should just get rid of it. I didn’t recognize that I was an extremely needy person. I lived that way until I discovered that life isn’t in having things that serve you. Abundant life is finding the pearl of great value, calling it precious, and treating it as precious, rather than taking it for granted or treating it with contempt and disrespect.

We must look for how we can contribute and bring benefit into the lives of others instead of how we can consume and attempt to benefit ourselves. The reason that 20% of the members of an organization often have to do everything is because 80% of the people won’t do anything. We must stop consuming and start contributing for the mutual benefit of all.

 3. Motivation

The focus of a giver is always turned outward. His thoughts are concentrated upon finding ways to position others to succeed. His motives are entirely ç and generous, having been birthed in a servant’s heart.

Conversely, the thoughts and purposes of a taker are consistently selfish. He is motivated by greed and self-interest alone, showing apathy and indifference toward any situation or relationship that he feels will bring him no benefit. He believes that others should respond to his needs.

“Can’t you see what I’m going through?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words from the ungrateful takers in my life. Yet interestingly, when I walk into a room of grateful givers, they start crying, saying, “You cared for me when no one else did. You are so precious to me!”

To these givers I always respond, “I’ll be precious to you until the day that you die. You just keep pressing. I will make up for all of the people that ever betrayed you. I’ll wipe away all the tears and all the pain that people have brought to you.”

My motivation is to make sure that those who have sown into my life receive a harvest from that precious seed. There must be reciprocity; there must be harvest from seeds sown.

Many times people want forgiveness, but they don’t want to forgive. They want to be pardoned, but they want to continue to blame and point a finger at others. Let’s say that you invested twenty years of sowing into a relationship. Don’t you think that at some point you would get into the reaping phase? Part of the curse of the law is that people would have children, and someone else would enjoy them.

I will not allow myself to become a non-producing, barren son. I will continue to tune my heart to hear the whisperings of my fathers. I will listen — really listen— to what they do not say, as much as what they say. I will seek to understand them, not just their words. I will value the relationship more than the results, knowing that in focusing on the relationship, the results will come. I will sow compassion and kindness because I realize how very much I need to receive compassion and kindness.

 4. Reward

A giver is not motivated by the recognition of men or temporal rewards. He does everything with his heart turned towards the eternal rewards that only heaven can bring. He is not concerned with self-preservation or self-protection, for he knows that as he takes care of others, God will take care of him.

A taker, however, is driven by the applause and approval of men. No matter how much he receives, it’s never enough. In fact, a taker is oppressed by the fear of never having enough — never enough recognition, influence, respect, financial reward, or power. This incessant, nagging fear causes him to be a “user.” Having no regard for the people in his relationships, he sees those associations as mere stepping-stones to get where he wants to go.

You can always spot people who pursue a relationship for what they can get out of it, because they are actively seeking others to solve their problems. Then, once their crisis is over, they disappear. The only time you ever hear from a taker is when he needs something!

Givers are generous in relationship because they trust God implicitly. They are willing to risk their entire future based on that trust. Jesus was like that. When He was mocked and insulted, He did not retaliate—when He suffered, He did not threaten revenge, but instead He entrusted Himself to the Father, “…who always judges fairly” (1 Peter 2:23, NLT ). He said, “God, I trust You.”

Trust is a difficult subject for most people, due to the many times that others have hurt them and taken advantage of their trust. Before they even get to know people, they are already conditioned to believe that others are going to take advantage of them. And truthfully, most people distrust God for the same reason. But how can I trust God with my future if I will not trust Him with my present?

Ruth was an individual who trusted God so completely that she was willing to risk her entire future. When her husband died, she did not have to stay and take care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. In fact, her sister-in-law, Orpah gave Naomi a kiss and then left her. But we are told that Ruth clave unto Naomi. Orpah was a kisser, but Ruth was a cleaver.

There are a lot of people that will “kiss” you, but Solomon tells us “…the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6). Beware of the people who are “kissers” in your life. Kissers should always be willing to prove to you who they are. Are they going to kiss and leave, or are they going to kiss and cleave?

Ruth made the choice to cleave, saying these words, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’ So when Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind to go with her, she stopped urging her” (Ruth 1:16-18, NLT).

This is the choice that Ruth made. She chose an eternal reward, rather than a temporal reward; but in doing so, she also obtained a temporal reward! Her choice was to be a giver rather than a user.

Friend, you’ll get more fulfillment from committing to believe the best about a challenging person than from having an uncommitted relationship with a wonderful person.

Every great man or woman is being pursued by both givers and users. In Chapter One we discussed Elijah and Elisha, and the exchange that happened between them at the end of Elijah’s life. God had spoken to Elijah and told him to go and anoint Elisha as being the prophet in his stead. In spite of the fact that there were other “sons” of prophets who were following Elijah, Elisha was the only son who received Elijah’s anointing. The other sons had used their relationship with Elijah only to become what they wanted to become. In the end, they were somewhat put back, disappointed, and resentful when Elisha received the reward of transparent relational intimacy. They didn’t understand that selfish motives are never rewarded.


NOTE: The above article is an excerpt adapted from Robb Thompson’s The Ten Critical Laws of Relationship, copyright © 2005, pages 163-169.