Sunday, 4 January 2015
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3
As Paul continues with his words concerning self-denial without accompanied love, he notes that “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor” is something that others may find notable. In Greek, the term “bestow…to feed the poor” is one Greek word, psomiso. It indicates “to portion out” or “to give away by mouthfuls.” The use of this word is to show that if someone were to take every scrap of their existence and parcel it out as a way of obtaining the favor of God, or being elevated in the sight of men, it actually means nothing without love.
In this, we can think of people who live as monks who own nothing and act piously. As they receive, they hand it out to others. On the surface, this may seem noble and worthy of commendation, but this is a worthless existence that ends in futility unless it is done in love. If God isn’t in their hearts and if there is no true sense of charity in their deeds, then they are simply wasting their lives. If one is exalted through deeds of piety in the eyes of others, it means that they have received their reward in full.
Paul goes on to say that “though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” In the book of Daniel, the three children of Israel went to the flames rather than bow to a false god. Others throughout history have done the same. The burning of Christians in the early years of the faith was a common occurrence. Later, the Roman Catholic Church burned faithful believers at will. People such as John Hus gave themselves to the flames rather than bow to the church’s wicked practices. These people gave their lives for the sake of Christ, standing on love for Him rather than love for this world.
However, Paul shows us that there is nothing intrinsically worthwhile in dying in this manner. Buddhist monks self-immolate from time to time in protest of certain events. However, this is a pointless death unless it is done with true love as its purpose. One can nobly die for another, preserving the other’s life in exchange for their own, or one can die for their faith in Christ and their properly directed love of God. In this, there is a valid reason for going to the flames. But to simply die for the sake of dying, consigning oneself to the flames without a loving reason in mind, has no merit at all.
Life application: The greatest supposed acts of charity are completely worthless unless they are motivated by love. Without love, it is wasted effort.
My Lord, what is it that is pleasing to You? Money? Shall I give money to charity to buy Your love? Would it be pleasing if I spent all my time, day and night, sitting in a pew for others to see my piety? Would I gain points for heaven by going to the flames in protest of a moral issue? Would these things buy me access to Your eternal home? Lord, I know that none of these will do me an iota of good unless they are accompanied with a heartfelt love for You. Let my deeds be deeds of faith, not for others to see, but for You to rejoice over. Be pleased with my heart, love, and actions as I do them for You. Amen.