CHARITY (noun): Love; universal benevolence; good will
CHARITY (noun): Giving help to the poor and suffering; generosity
CHARITY (noun): Bestowed gratuitously on the needy or suffering for their relief; any act of kindness
CHARITY (noun): Any true relief of the poor or friendless
The most common example of biblical CHARITY is Luke 10:29-37 when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.
Concerning the “Good Samaritan,” there seems to be four True or False questions that come to mind right from the start.
- We don’t have to be kind to everyone.
- The Priest and the Levite made excuses for not helping the less fortunate.
- It did not cost the Samaritan anything to help the man.
- The Samaritan didn’t know whether the victim was a good or bad man.
Things to Consider from this scripture about the Good Samaritan:
- Was the victim religious?
- Did the Samaritan know the injured man?
- Are we supposed to help others?
- Should we help only people like us?
- Will it cost us to help others?
- Can non-religious people, help, facilities, and supply materials to be used in our help of others?
In the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” written in 1938, starting in chapter seven, the author, Bill Wilson wrote:
“PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.
Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.”
Now you might be asking yourself, “What do these two paragraphs written by a alcoholic have to do with a Bible lesson?” I am glad you asked. These two paragraphs show what the practical application of the biblical principle of charity really looks like in our modern world and modern lives.
Over the past two years and especially the last three months, people have expressed to me personally, that the way I lead the charity food drive is not scriptural.
- They imply that I am doing it all wrong.
- They imply that I am violating God’s directed authority concerning helping others.
- They imply that I am sinning in the creative ways funding has be accomplished.
Are these accusations valued?
This study will take a close look at what the Bible actually has to say about charity.
Modern Hindrances to Charity
Today many things compete against God for our devotion. Some of the things that become modern-day distractions to our love of God, if we allow them to become more important, are:
- Excessive attraction to material things: Homes, money, cars, clothes, jewelry, physical appearance, entertainment, etc.
- Pursuit of wealth, power, fame, pleasure, or status.
- Excessive devotion: Self, job, hobbies, country, ideologies, heroes, leaders, sports, school affiliation, false religious beliefs, and even family.
One day, a religious leader asked Jesus which of the commandments was most important:
Mark 12:28-30 (NIV) “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
After saying, “Love the Lord your God” is the most important of the commandments, Jesus continued:
Mark 12:31 (NIV) “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The English word “love” has many different meanings, but the Greek word, agape, used in the New Testament, is known as “Christian love.” It means to regard, be concerned, offer charity, be helpful, and be involved with the welfare of others.
In His Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made the point that we should extend our charity to all people, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or any other prejudicial synthetic distinction. In the words of Jesus, we must practice charity, even, toward our enemies! (Matthew 5:43-48)
Hypocrisy Hindrances to Charity
If there was any one group of people that Jesus could not stand, it was hypocrites: The Pharisees.
The Pharisees were a religious and political denomination within the Hebrew religion and political world that insisted on very strict observance of their interpretations Biblical Law.
However, at the same time, the Pharisees forgot the true spirit and intent of the law and became self-indulgent, self-righteous, snobbish, and greedy.
- Pharisees harshly attacked any person who did not agree with their narrow view of religion.
- Pharisees view their traditions as untouchable.
- Pharisees devalue all non-traditional understandings of God’s truthful intent.
- People with Pharisees thinking fail to understand that the command to be helpful does not rest solely with people of the same faith and belief just because a few passages of scripture do include helping the needed within the church.
Commands about Charity
Matthew 5:42 (ESV) “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Mark 10:21 (ESV) “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Luke 6:38 (ESV) “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
The Hebrew Writer wrote:
Hebrews 13:16 (ESV) “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
1 John 3:17 (ESV) “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
Philippians 2:4 (ESV) “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Galatians 6:10 (ESV) “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV) “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
James 1:27 (ESV) “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James 2:14-17 (ESV) “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Note: To dissolve any misunderstanding that the use of the Greek word’s “adelphos” and “adelphe” translated “brother” and “sister” are not referring to fellow male or female believers in Jesus but to a person of the same nationality.
- All of these preceding scriptures (and many more) direct believers of Jesus to help others. They all give biblical authority to extend charity to the less fortunate within our lives.
- Nowhere in scripture have I discovered any direct or indirect commands or suggestions or example on how true charity is to be extended or how to precisely go about meeting God’s commands to extend charity.
How then do we show charity?
The Bible tells us to share generously with those in need, and good things will come to us in turn. Each of us has something to offer to someone in need. We can give our money, our time, be a friend to someone who is sick or lonely, or do volunteer work that help others regardless of the chance of repayment.
Returning to the opening quote from the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” lets reword the two paragraphs to apply to the life of a true follower of Jesus.
“PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from sinning as intensive good work with other sinners. It works when other activities fail. This is our suggestion: Carry this message to other sinners! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very lost.
Life will take on new meaning. To watch people turn from sin, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with sinners and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.”
Concerning the “four True or False questions from the start of this lesson:
- We don’t have to be kind to everyone. FALSE. The biblical text tells us we need to be kind to everyone. The lesson Jesus is teaching here is that we do have to extend charity.
- The Priest and the Levite made excuses for not helping the less fortunate. TRUE. As Jesus told the story, He made clear that religious justification was used to avoid being kind. The lesson Jesus is teaching here is that there is NO excuse for NOT offering charity.
- It did not cost the Samaritan anything to help the man. FALSE. As Jesus told the story, He made clear that helping in kindness did cost the Samaritan. The lesson Jesus is teaching here is that it will cost us to offering charity.
- The Samaritan didn’t know whether the victim was a good or bad man. TRUE. Jesus made no indication that the hurt man was ever known by any of the other people in the story. The lesson Jesus is teaching here is that we do not need to know anything about the people we offer charity to.
Concerning the list of things to consider from the start of this lesson:
- Was the victim religious? UNKNOWN. Jesus gives no clue as to the religious affiliation of the hurt man.
- Did the Samaritan know the injured man? UNKNOWN. Jesus gives no indication that anyone in the story knew the hurt man at all.
- Are we supposed to help others? YES. Jesus makes it very clear that it is right and just to help others in need that we come across during our walk in life.
- Should we help only people like us? NO. Jesus makes it clear that knowing a person in need is not a stipulation to extending the help they are in need of.
- Will it cost us to help others? YES. Jesus tells us that helping people in need will cost us time, effort, money, and materials.
- Can non-religious people, help, facilities, and supply materials to be used in our help of others? YES. Jesus tells us that all of these can be put into use in our efforts to extend charity to everyone.
Christian simply means to be like Christ.
Remember that Jesus Christ:
- Hung out with sinners
- Showed compassion to sinners
- Dined with sinners
- Worked with sinners
- Helped sinners
- Feed sinners.
- And even allowed a prostitute to wash His feet.
Are you really a true Christian?
Have you freely helped someone in the last week?
Are you really a true Christian?
Do you only help people like yourself?
Are you really a true Christian?
Do you really seek to offer charity to ALL PEOPLE in need?
Guy Lewis, Payson, Arizona
December 6, 2010