Charity… another word that lost its meaning….

Devotioal thought of the day….

I have a few friends who talk about the superiority of the translation of the King James Version…As an pastor – I disagree for a number of reasons, one of which is that the words used in the last revision, are no longer used, or are used in a way completely foreign to our use today.  We cannot understand them without a dictionary nearby – and worse – we don’t always know that the word has changed.  Such results often in poor theology.

Occasionally though, I wish we could reclaim a word here and there – because the English word is loaded used instead has far too many meanings as well – such as the word “love”  (in Greek there are four words that translate into the word – ranging from eros ( sexual), to agape – the word for love, which is the word used when we describe God with the phrase – God is love. ( the funny thing is the KJV uses love most of the time for agape. )

In 1 Cor 13, the famous love chapter, the KJV uses a different word for love – here is the passage – and the word I wish we could restore a meaning to…

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV) 1 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. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  

This word, charity, too is often misunderstood – indeed we have changed it drastically over the years – and we think of “a” charity – the recipient of donations, which does something worthwhile with them to help those less fortunate.  We think about it almost condescendingly – that they are the place where we deposit our excess, our leftovers, our hand-me-downs. It is the place that ministers to the “least of these…” (yet do we remember the kingdom parable of the sheep and the goats, and remember who is the least of these?”

Charity is far more than that – and yes – it is loving someone beyond what they deserve – but a love that has a specific character – one of action, or of devotion, one that seeks not to give the remnants, not just what is needed desperately, but what is…the best – that which would complete the person, no matter the cost.  In order to do this – it requires a Christlike, godly character, one willing to sacrifice what is best for the other.  It is far from condecension, far from simply pity, it is the depth of a relationship – that is what agape/charity is.

It is what we are called to – as we use who God has crafted us to be (see chapter 12) to serve/minister (same word in Greek) those around us.  I love how St Josemarie Escriva describes it:

557      Saint Paul has given us a wonderful recipe for charity: alter alterius onera portate et sic adimplebitis legem Christi – bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ. Is this what happens in your life? 558      Jesus Our Lord loved men so much that he became incarnate, took to himself our nature, and lived in daily contact with the poor and the rich, with the just and with sinners, with young and old, with Gentiles and Jews. He spoke constantly to everyone: to those who showed good will towards him, and to those who were only looking for a way to twist his words and condemn him. You should try to act as Our Lord did.  (1)

The second comment is included to help define the Lord’s charity/love towards us, and the way we should imitate him – and have charity towards those that twist our love and condemn us as well.

So in these last days of the year – as charities are calling asking you to give…may it become a reminder to truly depend on Jesus, truly look to Him, truly reflect His glory and  become truly one who shows charity – by going beyond, by loving without measure, by being like Christ

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2091-2099). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.



About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on December 27, 2012, in Devotions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

I love to know your thoughts on this... please respond!