Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Her eyes were locked out the airplane window taking it all in. Flying out of LaGuardia and getting panoramic views of Manhattan is breath-taking, but I was a little confused about why this 26-year-old advertising agency account executive had gone from extra talkative to silent. Then I caught a glimpse of a tear running down her cheek, that she wiped away quickly. They were unstoppable. More tears came as she simply embraced the moment. 

It was her last time to fly out of New York City and call it “home.”

We had a fascinating and significant conversation reflecting on her three years living in New York and discussing how one grieves a place they’ve grown to love. She recounted the deep loneliness she experienced her first year that seems so common to so many peoples’ stories we hear.

Her story was typical to many 20-somethings who have made their way to the City. She had come to do some low-rung hard work at an ad agency in New York for a few years. And as a result, she has been able to land a top Account Executive position at her home city’s top firm that she, self-admittedly, would have never landed without “NYC” on her resume.

It just hit home in a fresh way. Although I don’t suspect I’ll be leaving New York City for a decade or so, the reality is that there will likely be a day when I am on plane, looking out the window, saying goodbye to the City as my “home,” with tears rolling down my face.

And it made me think about my own heart, and whether it has maintained the deep-seeded desire to serve the city and not just take what I can get from it.

In surrendering to the Lord again and re-centering my desires to His desires, I realized how quickly being in the City can cause me to shrink into a self-absorbed story. Talking with church pastors in New York City has helped me further understand how we can join in with what God is already doing here. I don’t want a self-absorbed story.  I desire to serve this city and the people in it.  The following sentences have helped me consider whether or not I am doing this.

  • “I come to get” vs. “I come to give” – When we take from the city and use it like a theme park, instead of becoming part of the city.
  • “Refugees” vs. “Residents” – When we huddle together with only like-people instead of getting to know the diversity of the city and bless it.
  • “Consumer” vs. “Missional” – When we consume the resources of the city for our own purposes, instead of helping renew the places we observe are broken.
  • “Tourists” vs. “Biblical Exiles” – When we use the city, or become just like the city, or huddle together for warm comfort, instead of engaging in helping the city prosper so that we can prosper (Jeremiah 29). 

As I think about so many of us, including myself, entering our neighborhoods, jobs and the relational networks God has placed us in, I invite you to join me in surrendering our days in this City (or wherever God has you living) to be about God’s grand Kingdom-building and restoration story instead of our self-centered stories we so easily default into.

So where do we start? Well, I am more and more convinced that it doesn’t necessarily start with a grand strategic plan, but with us all surrendering to be faithful in the ordinary of where God has chosen to place us. 

Find more Fresh Stories here!

david_robbins_1358106126_32David Robbins is the director of millennials for Cru New York City. He is the father of an amazing special needs kid (plus two others). He lives in Manhattan, where he is learning how to give and not just take from the city, while launching a new emphasis within Cru to the emerging generation. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at



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