By Tera Ertz
“3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)
One of the biggest disparities in politics between Christians is this concept of Christian love, the idea that we are to give to the poor, or to subject ourselves to privations, and that if we do not, we are not behaving in a Christian manner. We argue regularly over the role of government in this giving, we scrutinize the charitable habits of our candidates, we use rallies or other demonstrations of solidarity with fellow Christians to criticize one another for not doing enough to help the poor. “Look how many people showed up for this, wouldn’t it be better if we could get everyone to organize like that to help the poor.” In the process of these debates, we often degenerate into attacking one another, and then we lose sight of the message of this particular verse that we so often point to for support for charitable programs, public or private.
This verse tells us that we are intended not only to give, and not only to sacrifice our own comforts, but with what kind of attitude we must do these things. Giving so that we can boast, or pat ourselves on the back for a job well done is not a demonstration of love, it is an example of a childish infatuation that focuses on our own benefit, either in prestige or a warm fuzzy feeling. Jesus mentions this in another verse when he talks of those who do their good works in public for the world to see. He tells us that they have already received their reward, and that we should not seek recognition here but in heaven for our actions.
As Christians, it is essential that we teach and seek ways to lay all we have and all we are at the feet of God, to be used as He directs. Caring for those who are less able is a cornerstone of the teachings of Christ. But, we must always be mindful that it is not simply the actions we take that bring God joy, it is action that grows out of love that brings about the transformation He seeks. Love first, then Your giving or Yourself and Your abundance will further the Kingdom of God, and your love will allow His face to shine through.
Lord, we know we often get focused on what we have, what we want, and what we think others should do with what they have. We get trapped in the craving for the world to recognize us for our actions, and forget that Your grace is the only reward we need. Please God forgive us for being boastful, for being focused on the attention of others, or on the actions of others. Fill us with Your Spirit so that we may become more perfect in Your love, and help us to be open to the guidance Your Spirit provides. In Jesus Name, Amen.