The Gift: Increase

Sam is talking about increase today in his book club post on Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

I’ve been enjoying following his lead…

In chapter two, The Bones of the Dead, Hyde explores the way a gift grows in the giving. He terms this growth increase.

Increase differs from profit in a significant way. Hyde explains, “…in gift exchange it, the increase, stays in motion and follows the object, while in commodity exchange it stays behind as profit.”

When I give my time in teaching the Middle schoolers at my church, neither I nor they receive tangible compensation. Rather, the gift of my teaching—my love—goes with these young ones and becomes part of who they are. Their memories of our time together may increase the value of their life…Perhaps they will give of themselves in a similar way some day due to my example. Likewise, the joy I experience in our exchanges continue to mold me. I carry our experiences with me throughout my life; letting them shape me and grow me, increasing the depth of my perceptions.

The gift stays in motion. The gift increases in value as we share it with the world.

One example Hyde gives is a continuation of the potlatch discussion. This tribal feast can be described as a “goodwill ceremony”. We are told that when an individual from one of these tribes is insulted, rather than retaliate in kind, the victim gives a gift to the offender. If the insult was unintended, the man would then reciprocate—returning a gift of even greater value to demonstrate his goodwill.

Hyde says that in this case, the gift becomes a “binder of many wills”. He states, “If it brings the group together, the gift increases in worth immediately…and then, like a faithful lover, continues to grow through constancy.”

Jesus said, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also…” (Luke 6:27-29)

The gift Jesus proposes here is the gift of grace.

As a Christian, I am taught to lavish it on the undeserving.

Grace with my children when they disobey.

Grace with my husband when he is insensitive.

Grace with my co-workers when they disappoint.

Grace at my church when…well, when church becomes more important than Jesus.

Hyde’s example of the potlatch-insult-gift-exchange illustrates to me how the smallest of kindnesses—the tiniest bit of grace—can become the “binder of many wills”. The increase of the gift of grace has the potential to be a tremendous increase for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t know about you, but I need a little more practice. Grace is not my natural first response when I have been mistreated.

Jesus goes on to say in the same passage mentioned above, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that…But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36)

Grace should be what sets us apart, friends.

That is a gift with heavenly increase.


  1. says

    Really, giving is easy. But gracing, oh therein lies a challenge because before we extend grace to another, we first have to be given something we don’t particularly relish. And as you say, we must “lavish it on the undeserving” in order for the world to see us in His image.

    Also, we tend to get so caught up in gracing others that we miss it when they grace us…

  2. says

    Sam sent me here. 🙂 (Not that I wouldn’t come anyway.)

    I loved that thing about giving a gift to the one who insults. I’m sure there are times when that wouldn’t be the best course of action. But it’s also a wonderful buffering opportunity if it works out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *