September 8, 2011

Selfish Charity

I am often approached about humanitarian acts and charity asking, "...isn't all action in terms of humanitarian aid and charity a good thing?" It is also phrased in this manner too, " charity always a Christian thing to do?"

My response? Usually...but not always.

No matter how noble the task, when done for selfish motives, even good deeds can turn into sin in the hands of a sinner. Please read that again and let it stew in your brain for a second.

When someone gives charity and/or humanitarian aid as an effort towards self-glorification, it is given to the right people...with the wrong intent. If the need to aid others is driven or comes in the form of conviction from the Holy Spirit it will be done in love for love. It will not be driven by selfish motives. I believe many do things because it is the "in" thing to do or sometimes do it for noterity. Do not get me wrong...God can work to get people life-saving supplies even through the sinful atrocious motivations of selfish people. It still does not make the intent of selfish people less sinful or proper. Sadly, as with many other things in our modern world, people are not differentiating. So when I come along and make a statement like this I am portrayed or viewed as a miserly and mean-spirited Evangelical.  Hit the dump button....Bzzzzzzzzzz. Wrong. These ideas have been around a lot longer than I and they have been more eloquently worded by better men.

We see this idea in the story of the Widow's Mite in the Gospel of Mark and Luke.

"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

Beyond the obvious mixed feelings of seeing this widow give everything she had becasue of her faith and dedication to God we something else. Earlier in the passage we see the rich dumping into the temple treasury from their wealth. They gave from their surplus and did so handsomely...more than likely this was done to impress those around adding to their prestige and piousness. Based on Jesus' reaction to both them and the widow it is probably safe to say the rich had motives beyond that of pure charity based in love. Selfish charity.

Again I cite a Thomas à Kempis passage from the "Imitation of Christ"

Book I: Chapter 15 - Thomas à Kempis 

Never do evil for anything in the world, or for the love of any man. For one who is in need, however, a good work may at times be purposely left undone or changed for a better one. This is not the omission of a good deed but rather its improvement. Without charity external work is of no value, but anything done in charity, be it ever so small and trivial, is entirely fruitful inasmuch as God weighs the love with which a man acts rather than the deed itself. He does much who loves much. He does much who does a thing well. He does well who serves the common good rather than his own interests. Now, that which seems to be charity is oftentimes really sensuality, for man's own inclination, his own will, his hope of reward, and his self-interest, are motives seldom absent. On the contrary, he who has true and perfect charity seeks self in nothing, but searches all things for the glory of God. Moreover, he envies no man, because he desires no personal pleasure nor does he wish to rejoice in himself; rather he desires the greater glory of God above all things. He ascribes to man nothing that is good but attributes it wholly to God from Whom all things proceed as from a fountain, and in Whom all the blessed shall rest as their last end and fruition.

If man had but a spark of true charity he would surely sense that all the things of earth are full of vanity!


Dean Roberts said...

Loved this post!
Keep them coming :)

Andy Pierson said...

Glad you liked it. Stop back whenever you want.

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