"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."¬† I Corinthians 13:1.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul tells us that even if he were to speak eloquently¬†the greatest words ever heard on the face of¬† the earth,¬†but lacked¬†charity, his speech would be nothing but cacophonous and annoying¬†noise and clamor.¬†
How can these words encourage us? ¬†What can we take from Paul's admonition that will better serve our lives and our¬†fellow man? ¬†The simple answer is actually found in the meaning of the word charity. ¬†While charity can be considered an act of love, it is truly an outward expression and extension of love that defines what it really is.¬†¬†We all "love" things and people.¬†¬†(I love coffee, but that‚Äôs not necessarily¬†going to benefit those around me except at¬†Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or the McCafe!)
Charity is the selfless¬†act of love exercised without expecting anything in return. ¬†It is agape love, sacrificial at its roots¬†and a¬†blessing¬†to those whose condition or situation may benefit from someone's thoughtfulness, compassion,¬†care and love.¬†¬†Each one of us possess the capacity to exercise charity on a daily basis, even in times when it may be difficult for us to give or share. ¬†In our world today, people are being¬†indoctrinated¬†with an entitlement mentality, believing that they are owed something for nothing. ¬†Yet, when was the last time we actually wondered how much we owe others?¬† The words we chose to¬†use throughout the day¬†(charitable words), the way we speak one to another¬†(charitable speech)¬†and¬†even the way we drive to and from our homes¬†(charitable patience)¬†are¬†opportunities¬†that allow us to extend¬†charity to others¬†by placing their feelings and needs before our own.¬† Paul understood this¬†and¬†wrote¬†to the Christians in Rome saying, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise."(Romans 1:14). ¬†Paul truly appreciated the charity of others and felt indebted to them all.¬†¬†Maybe you are asking¬† yourself, "how does¬†this encourage me?‚ÄĚ¬† When we place the needs of others before our own and¬†at the forefront of our lives, we find that we begin to encourage those around us and once we experience encouraging someone else, that will in turn encourage us.¬†¬†Charity becomes its own reward, to us and to others.¬†¬†Encouragement through sacrificial love is a reciprocal ministry in the¬†life of the Christian. ¬†
There are three ways to produce charity in the lives of those around us. ¬†As we engage¬†in the lives of people whose paths we may cross, many on a¬†daily basis, we recognize that some people's¬†needs are simply greater¬†than others. ¬† Often¬†those with the greatest needs are most appreciative of the charitable gift of¬†our time which is a very personal way of sharing.¬†¬†Time is a great¬†treasure,¬†a limited, non-renewable resource which¬†cannot be saved, duplicated or re-used¬†and is¬†hopefully spent¬†in appropriate ways.¬† Yes, it requires time invested in the lives of others to truly make a difference. ¬†We most likely¬†are¬†able to¬†recognize¬† the time¬†family, friends and, on¬† occasion,¬† strangers¬†have selflessly¬†invested in our lives over the years. ¬†When we examine the needs of those around us¬†with an appreciation¬†for all that has been invested¬† individually¬†in us¬†by others, an understanding¬†of Paul's feelings as a debtor to the Greeks and to the Barbarians becomes quite apparent.
Secondly, charity is exercised into the lives of others by our testimony. Sometimes¬†simply¬† lending an ear to those that are in need will be all that¬†is¬†required while other times some sage advise and uplifting words may be¬†desired. ¬†The greatest encouragement to others, however, will be our personal¬† testimony of the great things the Lord has charitably¬†provided for us¬†in our lives, the blessings of which may then be shared as¬†great and wonderful gifts. ¬†Remember that charity is a reciprocal ministry!¬†¬†The¬†spirit¬†of charity¬†is revealed throughout the Scripture as men went forth and testified of the great things Christ had done for them.¬†
Lastly, exercising charity, like¬†the sacrificial love witnessed in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,¬†will¬†sometimes require our treasure.¬† Beloved, sometimes it is going to painfully cost us to exercise the kind of charitable love our Lord left us as an example to be followed.
Today may be the day that the¬† charity exhibited in¬†our lives¬†gives hope to others and¬†changes the direction in the ones¬†we least¬† expect.¬†
‚ÄúAnd now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.‚ÄĚ¬† I Corinthians 13:13
Dr. B. J. Stagner Jr.
Pastor Stagner has preached in many different countries and continues to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the manner that it is intended from the...
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