Beware the Guarded Heart: Are We Called to Responsible Charity?
Firstly, if you haven’t experienced the “For the Life of the World” video series, you should address that situation.
You can find out more about it here.
I’m journeying through this series with an assemblage of youthies who have been, through no fault of their own, placed under my charge. Recently we watched and discussed Episode 4 which highlights hospitality and its ability to restore order and balance in the world. It was an eye-opening study on the ability and imperative that we each have as Christians to demonstrate love to the world. Not the call of the church to this action, but of each individual Christian.
We are each called to be a bastion of grace, mercy, and the ever-ministering presence of Christ to the world around us.
I’ll be honest and pause here to admit that I don’t have the best track record with charity and hospitality, so this isn’t a “everyone should be like me” kind of a thing. It’s a “let’s take a look at our attitude when it comes to charity and hospitality” kind of a thing.
You see, I’m all for being wise and discerning with the way we love people. We want to be a service to them, but we also want to be responsible with the resources we have. If I give a man a twenty-dollar bill so he can buy groceries and instead he goes down to the corner and buys drugs, well, I’m going to be a little bummed that Little Ike, the local drug king, now has my money in his gym-bag full of ill-gotten gain. No one likes to see their good intentions hijacked by someone else's bad judgment and so we create and implement guidelines to follow in our charitable efforts to try and prevent people from taking advantage of us.
“Never give them money, always offer to buy what they need.”
“Try and meet their needs, but don’t enable bad behavior”
These are sound piece of advice, but I worry that if we focus too much on “responsible charity” we miss an important aspect of God’s charity towards us.
We miss its extravagance.
Think of the life and ministry of Christ. He showed no partiality in His mercy or his miracles. They were gifts given to any willing to receive.
Do you doubt that the cripple, once healed, no longer ran to sin?
Do you think the blind man, give sight, did not once again covet with his eyes?
Is it not likely that the withered hand, made whole, struck in anger?
Did the five thousand not consume their meal only so they could seek more?
And, most importantly, did He not die for all men?
In Christ’s death we have the greatest picture of extravagant grace and love. The blood of Jesus Christ was spilled as much for the one who would reject it as it was for those who would receive it. It was shed for the faithless as much as the faithful. The one sees it as license to sin is as welcome to its stream as is the one who sees it as life.
There is no one who has their love and mercy more abused than does God. He gives life only to see man squander it in pursuit of his own lusts and desires. He gives the wonder of taste and nourishment to the glutton as freely as to the hungry. Speech is as freely given to the scoffer as it is to those who speak life.
To love as Christ loved, as God loves, we have to be willing to have our charity rejected, abused, and used for wrong.
The safest form of charity might not be the most Christ-honoring. When we look at the mercy Christ showed we don’t see a guarded heart.
We see extravagant charity.