Honestly, I don't know. It's a chicken or egg thing - isn't it? What I do know is that I literally spent hours thinking and studying this topic.

I read the Bible: "...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than receive.'" (Acts 20:35) And old Chinese proverbs: "Sow much, reap much; sow little, reap little." I did some Napoleon Hill, too: "You give before you get."

You know what? Give and take have to be present at the same time. You can't have one without the other. I think they both come first.

I even digitally delved (is that possible?) into the back issues of Science, and found out about "reciprocal altruism." According to evolutionary biologists Martin A. Nowak and Karl Sigmund, there are two principal reasons for giving: kin selection (we help those who are most closely related to us) and we give to receive.

Then, I tried to remember the very first time the subject ever came up in my life. Ah ha! Grandma Grace and her beloved Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran:

"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give," she read to me on the couch. She continued...

"There are those who give little of the much which they have - they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

"And there are those who have little and give it all.

"These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

"There are those who give with joy, and their joy is their reward.

"And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

"And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue:

"They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

"Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes

"He smiles upon the earth.

"For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

"And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon he who gives.

"Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings:

"For to be over-mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father."

You know what? Give and take have to be present at the same time. You can't have one without the other.

I think they both come first.

John Milton Fogg
is Editor in Chief of Networking Times.