I Corinthians 13 proclaims,
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.
I grew up reading from the King James Version of the Bible before we had so many translations for us to choose from. I was reading this text with my youngest son, who is 10. I asked him what does charity mean? He shared the answer that I expected, which was to do something kind for another person. However, “charity” is used in the New Testament almost exclusively to mean “love.” Over time and with the growing legalism of the church, it transitioned to mean either giving to the poor or tolerance in judging the actions of others. These are qualities of love, but they do not encompass the complete love of God that Paul spoke.
Paul said that our actions without this understanding and embracing God’s love in our lives would limit the power of our good efforts. It could also create a culture of compulsory giving versus one that the Holy Spirit moves in an individual to fulfill God’s call on us at that moment. Love was essential to be the driving motivation for all that we do.
As the end of the year approaches and another page of our life is turned, I hope that love is moving us to do more extraordinary things for the Kingdom of God than ever before. We should show our world that so often is motivated by consumption and greed that we are different as followers of Jesus. We appreciate the time that our Heavenly Father has given us, and we use it appropriately to transform our communities. We use our talents to encourage each other and to engage those who are not followers yet. When it comes to our riches, we cannot live with our hands closed but open doing all the good we can.
As Methodists, let us renew our commitment to spread the good news of Jesus not only through our songs and sermons but through our actions guided by charity. I invite you to dream with us as your Foundation during this Christmas and beyond.