For this week I want to center around love. As a wife and mother, the very essence of my existence is to love and to be loved by those in my own household, first, and then to those that are not in my household-my neighbors. More importantly, I must grasp the meaning of love by the one who designed it-God. Journey with me this week as I study the meaning of charity.
Charity is a word we find in the bible and is often referred to as “love”
This is the definition of charity: the practice of benevolent giving and caring.
From a biblical standpoint, charity is a virtue of unlimited love and kindness.
What is unlimited love? Unlimited love is a love that loves without bounds. It is an adjective meaning; not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent.
That means, it is something you can count on. It is a love and kindness that never ends no matter the circumstances.
Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians takes us to the heart of this concept of unlimited love and kindness.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am a become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
Okay, if you are like me and have boys, you know what loud obnoxious noises are. They tear through the room with thunderous footsteps. Then they barrel down the stairs it sounds much like a stampede of elephants running for their lives. They are created to conquer, so any small matter requires a battle cry to magnify its importance. There are days that I feel so tired and after teaching lesson after lesson while homeschooling, my eyelids become heavy. I take the risk to shut them and attempt to get a little nap in on the sofa. After just dozing off, in comes a boy with a loud bang of a slammed door and a kick of a chore boot zings through the air, hitting the wall with a crack. I jolt back into consciousness wondering why. Why they could not just learn to close the door softly and tip toe into the room like I did when they were small and napping?
So when people do not have charity (unlimited love and kindness), their spoken words are like an obnoxious sound. To me the most obnoxious sound is that of fingernails scratching a chalkboard. Imagine how many people send the sounds of clamoring crashes and shrieking scratches when they open their mouth that pours forth from a heart void of unlimited love and kindness.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
Harsh. So I could have great faith, so great that I could remove a mountain, and if I do have charity, I am nothing? I could know everything, understand everything but if I do not have unlimited love and kindness, I am NOTHING? How many people do you run into that seem so smart, so together, so spiritual but yet they are selfish or unkind to others? I have met many self-proclaimed children of God that when I hear their great swelling words, their little religious plugins every other sentence and then I see how they set themselves apart, I cringe inside because I see something missing. One lady comes to my mind-an old friend of mine. She was so much larger than life. She could out wit the finest bible scholar. She could outrun the entire church with her devotion to God. She was uncompromised in her grand faith and sure to nail you to the cross if she caught you compromising in your walk with God. She would not “put up with that”. Prayer was done like a sounding trumpet for all to hear and admire. Come all, come round; listen to her devotion, her authenticity. I was under the thumb of her teaching and the command to exhort one another in truth was one sided. There was nothing she would learn from my immature understanding of God’s word. It was like her words were that of the Holy Spirit. I would nod my head and listen to the clamor of her many words for hours, knowing that there was nothing I could say to refute her. She was blinded by the smoke screen she masterfully created with her many religious words. As a self -proclaimed evangelist, she would prowl after every human like a lion prowls after it’s prey, digging in her claws. I would watch her, just wishing I wasn’t there. Hoping these poor people would come away not completely confused.
At her home I observed a very conditional sort of love. If you do as she says, you are on her good side. Anything other than agreement is anarchy to God himself. Her husband shrinks under the constant bullying. When I stood up to her, that was “it” for me. She threw me out of her life. Unlimited love and kindness was not her song. Without this charity, all her pomp and circumstance, all her swelling words of wisdom, her endless faith, amounts to nothing.
I am thankful for her witness in my life because I learned more from her example than I could have learned being around someone who was easy to be around. I learned what I do not want to become. I strive to always esteem others greater than myself. I want to always be teachable, and my faith to soar within the bounds of unlimited love and kindness.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profited me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3
Hello philanthropists! It is amazing how many people in the media brag about how much money they gave to this charitable organization or that. You see them holding an orphaned child who is smiling. Even everyday people like to brag on themselves how they went and brought a meal to this person, how they gave to this missionary, or how
they helped with a homeless shelter feeding the poor. It is good to help, but God sees the heart. You can do all these things, but if your motivation is to be seen of men, to get some kind of glory out of being a grand example of a benevolent Christian, you get your reward-Here. Not in heaven. I have seen people give to the needy, yet cringe when a dirty bum sits beside them on a bench. What’s worse is when people give to have a “hold” on you. They expect you to listen to them because they have done “oh so much for you”. Strings are attached to every little gift. You know you are in trouble when after you have been given a bag of groceries when you were down and out, then later that same person gets mad at you because you did nothing for them. It profits us nothing if we do not give in a pure heart filled with unlimited love and kindness, expecting nothing in return.
When I think of these three verses, I think of motherhood. I think of the unlimited love I have naturally for my children. They could be screaming their heads off acting like a total lunatic right in public so that I look like a terrible parent, and I still love. They could walk away from my grand words of encouragement on loving one other to slapping their sibling across the head for no good reason. The wars break out, things get ugly, and yet I love. They break many of the things we work hard to buy. They stare up with these cute little eyes, saying, “I thought it was a horse, mommy.” The frustration mounts, but that remark was so cute, so I love. They could whine and fuss until my ears feel they will fall off, and I just keep plugging away with my love toward them. I could never stop loving my children. No matter what they do, no matter how many messes they make, how many times they are not thankful for my sacrifices I have made. I still love.
A story comes to mind…
I remember a day 14 years ago when Miles was about 18 months old. He asked me for a piece of cheese so I turned away from him and walked toward the refrigerator. I proceeded to open the door and look for the cheese. I placed it on a cutting board that I had on the counter top. Miles tugs my pant leg as he whines, “Mamma, cheese, Mamma, cheese!!!” I patiently continued toward the drawer where I found a knife. Slowly I sliced the cheese and by this time, Miles was laying on the floor crying his eyes out. I thought to myself, wow this must be how it feels to God. We pray and when nothing happens immediately we feel God has turned His back on us and walked away. Instead, just like I was busy preparing something for my child that he was too small to see, God is busy lining the circumstances up in His own good timing. Miles, in his small understanding, thought I was forsaking him when I turned away. He lost faith when I was steadfast stuck to the countertop doing something other than handing him the cheese. His heart fainted as he saw me pick up a knife. Impatience got the better of him as he wailed, not knowing that I was preparing something wonderful for him. And yet God loves us when we are His children, born again into his family. As our father in heaven, He still gives good gifts to us even though we behave selfishly, even when we throw fits, and when sees that our love has a limit. His good gifts come not always as fast as we want them, nor in the way we asked for them, but one thing is for certain, our whining is obnoxious in the sight of God. We whine so loudly in the form of disappointment, ungratefulness, and discontentment. His charity is unlimited and His kindness never ceases and He remains full of mercy toward us even though we do not deserve it. I am thanking God today for His Charity towards my life. I could cry every time I try to fathom why He is good to me even when I fail. Wow, it is amazing to be loved by God.
Stay tuned for more on this topic tomorrow…