If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3
Reality check time: Do I give with the right motives? Two ongoing events are driving that thought with me right now. One is very specific. My church is getting ready to emphasize stewardship and generous lifestyle commitments through participation in Financial Peace University. Programs and personalities aside, I am praying that it will help us all to reformat our priorities for the sake of the kingdom. But even if all of Mill Creek were to somehow give away all of the income represented, it would be worthless if it was not done out of love. It isn't about making a target amount with a check in the offering plate. It is about loving the things that God loves and sharing what I have in that great love.
A second broader event also has me reexamining my motivations. It has to do with the way many younger evangelicals have embraced social justice as a major outcome of their Christian faith. I am certainly all for it WHEN it is a natural outcome of preaching the gospel. And it should be. But that is not what I see happening. Instead, I see happy Christians in suburban ease volunteering to help social justice issues, often without any substantial sacrifice. They can climb in the beemer and drive home at night. There are some growing exceptions to that rule. And I am greatly impressed with those who are truly preaching the gospel while helping the homeless, revitalizing the urban core, or serving those dying of AIDS. I must admit that right now, for me, it is frankly quite easy to be in the first category. And finding a way to move in the second category is something I always must do. But Paul also reminds us that we can literally give our life for a social cause, and if love was not behind it, the sacrifice was a waste. Once again, service has to be about a really big kind of love!
Simply put: 1) It isn't giving without love, AND 2) It isn't serving without love. And the measure of love is the preaching of the gospel, living out its incarnational and sacrificial message, and truly caring for the people for whom Jesus died.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13