CHARITY AS THE ESSENCE AND CHARACTER OF GOD; THE BIBLE ABOUT MERCY
Charity is a manifestation of God’ love and mercy. Charity is the essence of God. Sometimes people confuse charity with material support and think that it is for those who are financially secure to some extent. On the other hand, there are people who are in need themselves, but they support others, either out of pity or just for a show-off.
True charity requires love. Mother Theresa said, “Our work of charity is nothing else than our love for God, which cannot be contained in our hearts, and is being outpoured”. The Word of God says, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” (Lk. 3:11). “Share your bread with the hungry” (Is. 58:7), which means give a share of what you have at that day. As you can see, charity of a godly person has nothing to do with financial abundance, pity or showing off. It is simply a manifestation of love for God, the Word of God and a specific person.
The mission of Jesus Christ here on this earth is summed up in Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” It is noteworthy that charity is put into the very first verse, “…the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…”
HOW TO HELP PEOPLE
“Loose the bonds of wickedness… undo the heavy burdens,” (Is. 58:6). The bonds of wickedness in people’s lives shall be loosened; a charitable person must not only clothe the naked and feed the hungry, but also teach them that the devil is the root of all misery, God is the foundation of life, and Jesus is our life. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).
To loose the bonds of wickedness means to tell about the power and Sacrifice of the Cross. To have lasting changes, people’s lives must be changed by the Word of God. The Kingdom of God must be brought into their lives, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). People must be taught to seek the Kingdom of God first, and all the other things will be given to them, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33). The goal of charity must not be to give fish to the poor all the time, but to teach them to catch fish; not to take the poor from the hut, but to take the hut from the poor, because then they will come out of their hut themselves.
Today such work is called social ministry. The one who supports the needy must aim at changing people, not their situations. If people don’t change, they will have even more problems, which will keep them in a quagmire of poverty and debt. People must be taught the word of God; they must be taught what to change and how to work. Personal development is a process with a number of necessary stages. During this process, charity workers must be focused on people and give them opportunity to find out their own problems. They must locate the problem and come out of it together. This is the essence of social ministry; at a later time, I will address this subject separately.
HUMANISM AND CHARITY
Humanism is a manifestation of erroneous love toward a person. A humanist, moved by philanthropy, constantly supports and feeds the needy, without realizing that his actions destroy that person. On the other hand, godly charity raises the needy from the dust of poverty and helps them to travel a path called Support – Restoration – Development. The work with socially deprived people must be conducted with much attention, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, by preserving the individuality of the needy, by allowing them to act independently and without confusing charity with humanism. These principles are beautifully illustrated in the Parable of a Butterfly.
THE PARABLE OF A BUTTERFLY
A man found a butterfly cocoon. He noticed a little hole on the cocoon, and started to watch how the butterfly was struggling, probably for hours, to push its body through it. Soon the butterfly stopped, ceasing any movement; it seemed it was all it could do, and it was unable to do anything else. The man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and cut the whole cocoon. The butterfly easily came out of the cocoon, but it had a weak body and little, trembling wings, which could not lift its body up. The man continued to watch the butterfly expecting its wings to be stretched and gain strength soon, and that it would fly. However, it never happened.
The butterfly spent the rest of its life with swollen body and trembling wings, crawling around. It never flied. Because of his kindness and hastiness, the man did not understand that the cocoon, which limited the butterfly’s movements, and the struggle to come out of its little hole were necessary for the butterfly, so that its body could give strength to its wings, and, once out of the cocoon, it would be ready to fly.
Sometimes struggle is necessary in our lives. If God allowed us to live our lives without any obstacles, we might become defective as a result. We would not become as strong as we could be. We would never be able to fly…
THE ROLE OF CHARITY IN A PERSON’S LIFE
The people who do works of charity must always remember that they need the poor more, than the poor need them, because true charity keeps a person’s heart and mind in humility. God dwells in humble hearts, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’” (Is. 57:15).
How shall we do works of charity? “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Mt. 6:3). “…share your bread with the hungry… bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked… cover him… Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’…” (Is. 58:7-9).
Another manifestation of charity or mercy is not to slander or criticize others, and not to keep them under a yoke. Oftentimes, parents, older children at home, managers or officials do not notice how they keep the ones who depend on them under a yoke by dictating their own will to them, not considering their desires or suppressing their individualities. “If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger (in Hebrew, criticism), and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail…” (Is. 58:9-14).
When doing works of charity, we must always remember the ten commandments of Mother Teresa:
- People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
- Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
- If you have found undisturbed happiness, you will be envied.
Be happy anyway.
- The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
- It doesn’t matter what people speak about you.
Just smile and continue doing your work.
- Pray together and stay in unity.
- Give the world the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
In the end, you will see that all that has been between you and God, and never between you and man.