How to Feel More Charitable

ImageI wrote recently about how I did not go back to Wal-Mart to get food for a family begging on the curb. Yesterday, I almost did it again, this time with a person sitting near the street corner. I’d had a long day, waking up stiff and sore, finishing a project for a friend, doing some tax homework, going to a job interview, then coming home for lunch before going out all afternoon to tax class. I was in a decent mood, but not feeling all that charitable.

There’s the part of me that wants them to just get jobs rather than ask for my money. Another part, and the one that drew me to the picture above, that says, “I feel like there’s always someone else that needs money, and I only have so much. Why does it seem like every time I give to one of these people that I’m the first that day to do it?” And these thoughts make me feel less and less charitable.

In Matthew 14, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed in prison, He was sad and withdrew by boat to a deserted place. The crowds followed him, walking to where He was. Jesus could have told them to go away and let him mourn for his friend, second cousin, and the man chosen to prepare the way for Him. He could have been grumpy, even angry that they couldn’t leave Him alone for one day, but just kept coming with their needs.

But He had compassion on them and healed them.

When I passed up the family and almost passed up the other person, I didn’t feel like giving. I was being selfish. I had lost my compassion for them, forgetting how much they need food, how much uncertainty is playing through their minds, and most importantly, how much they need to be shown love.

People who beg are often homeless, destitute, and hungry. They smell bad, feel worse, and usually don’t reach old age. Then they have to put aside their pride and beg for charity, only to be ignored by 99% of the people who pass them. Be in the 1% who don’t, at least from time to time. Not because you seek a reward, even though Jesus promises one, but because God loves all these people every bit as much as He loves you. Because the concerns of this world will never be as important as the concerns of the soul. Because Jesus reached out to you when your soul was even poorer than they are physically. Because God has chosen to give you enough, not so you can live in a nice house with your xBox and go out to dinner and a movie every week, but so you can bless others as God has blessed you.

It’s not your money. It never has been.

In Jeremiah 27, God makes it clear that King Nebuchadnezzar, who conquered Israel, was His servant whom He had raised up. In Daniel, this same king boasts about his kingdom and God makes him as a beast of the field for a while. Then he comes to his senses and is restored, praising God. Job tells us that God gives, and God takes away. If He can raise up and throw down kings, can He not bless you greatly or take away everything from you as He sees fit? All that you have is because He allows you to have it, meaning that it is really His and not yours.

And if it is His, you should do His will with it.

When you go to work, you don’t do whatever you want (unless you’re the owner of the company). You do what your boss tells you to do the way the boss wants it done. Everything down to using the office equipment has to be done in accordance with the company’s rules because this stuff belongs to the company. It doesn’t matter how many times the printer jams, you have no right to take an ax to it because it’s not yours. You must do with it whatever your company wants you to do.

The upside is that when the company pays vendors, you don’t feel the pinch because it’s not your money.

Likewise, if everything you have isn’t really yours, then shouldn’t you do the will of Him who owns it all? All you have left is whether to obey or not, whether to remember how much others need to be shown the same love He has shown you. God will take care of you, but it is more important that you show love to others. “Freely have you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b.


Tell Them About My Love

When I was in church on Sunday, the ideas for posts this week came fast and furious. At one point, I was going to blog about the pastor’s message. I asked God what He wanted me to say about correction vs. rejection (not the main thrust of the message, but an important point) and He responded, “Tell them about My love.”

And so my first post this week was about how much God loves us all. I could be as eloquent as Shakespeare and still fail miserably to capture the tiniest fraction of His love for us.

Whether I can say it well or not is not important. What is important is that I show it. Most of our communication with people has nothing to do with the words that come out of our mouths. It has been estimated that 55% of our communication with others is in our body language and facial expressions, 38% in our tone of voice, and 7% in our actual words. I would argue that there’s another component to consider: our actions.

When you talk to others, do you just say the right words, or do your expressions and tone make that person feel loved and accepted? Do your actions line up with your words and body language? There will likely be someone where you work or in your social circle who watches you a little more closely just because they know you’re a Christian. They will pay attention most of all to how your actions line up with what they know of the Bible (which may be unfair if their knowledge of it is limited or skewed) and to how much you love people. The one thing that seemingly all non-Christians who have heard of Jesus know about Him is that He commanded us to love others, not to judge them.

I know that when others offend, hurt, or annoy me, I’m not as charitable in my heart as I should be, even though I sometimes manage to say the right words. The problem is that people are very adept at reading when you don’t like them and we all crave love and acceptance. If the God you believe in is not enough to change you, why would people believe in Him to change them?

I honestly don’t mean to come down on anyone. God knows I’m desperately in need of this message myself. I just want you to ask yourself honestly how you’re coming across to other people you meet, whether your best friend, spouse, colleague, or a stranger on the corner begging for change. Do they feel loved after being with you? And how much love do you have for them, especially when you don’t like something they’ve done?

To the Least of These

Matthew 25 makes a very powerful statement that seems to often go unnoticed: Jesus equates what we do for others – particularly those who are homeless, imprisoned, sick, or hungry – with what we do for Him. 

Think about that the next time you see someone in need. Try to imagine that it’s Jesus on the street corner, wondering where His next meal will come from. Jesus whose parents can’t afford school supplies, much less doctor and dentist visits. Jesus who has languished in prison with no visitors. Jesus who simply needs a hug because He’s had a rough day and could use a friend.

When someone is nice to Leah, I’m willing to return the favor to them. Why? Because I love Leah so much that a favor done to her is nearly the same as one done to me. God is like that with us; because He loves us, He takes it as a personal favor when we’re nice to those He loves.

And He loves everybody.

Even those you don’t particularly like.

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a specific challenge on here, but I think this post calls for one. Today, when you see someone in need (and you will see someone if you are looking at all), meet that need for them if you possibly can. Doesn’t matter whether it’s giving a homeless person a sandwich or calling someone who’s sick and asking if you can drop something off for them. Just find someone, preferably someone you don’t already love, and choose to love them like Jesus loves them. In doing so, you’ll be acting like He does and loving Him, too.