8 Min Read

Rethinking Charity

Published on

August 1, 2022

There is a way Scripture reorients us by confronting sacred cows that we have labelled untouchable over the course of our lives. I have come to realise that in order to truly receive God’s Word, we’ve got to empty ourselves of our idiosyncrasies and sentiments, especially the ones we hold very dearly. The following verse of Scripture has got to be one of the most shocking revelations in the entire Bible: when you speak of confrontations, this is top drawer!

And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr, without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value. — 1 Corinthians 13:3 TPT

The Word of God makes a bold assertion about what we often call “Charity”. It says that a man can give all his goods to feed the poor and still not have the pure motive of love. It goes ahead to say that the man may even give his body to be burned and literally die, yet not have love. Isn’t that really strange? If the Bible didn’t say these things, we would probably never even consider these thoughts, talk less believing them.

What in the world could be more noble than giving all you have to the poor? Well, the Bible says the pure motive of love is more noble. This thought sure throws a spanner in the wheel of our theology.

What we have always thought about love is that it must give. Now that is true, but the way it goes about its giving is even more important. Not all charity is charitable! Many of what we know to be charity are an attempt to love self through others. Too many people give to others so as to keep those beneficiaries perpetually under a mental siege of indebtedness.

A man who gives to others only because he enjoys the social perception of goodwill it confers on him isn’t truly loving those individuals to whom he bestows his goods. Instead, he is actually using them to facilitate his own self-obsession. Because of the kind of culture and social context we find ourselves, cheap charity seems to be a quick way to rack up points on popularity polls. It is often the quickest way politicians attempt to impress those whose vote they seek in the next elections. “I’ll give them staple foods and some money in an envelope, and they’ll see me as a kindhearted man who cares for them,” they think to themselves! This is an inferior dimension of love and charity. In fact, it’s an incredibly potent way of manipulating people to think short-term because of what they see in their hands today whilst helping them mortgage their own future.

Many people have a problem with the genuine expressions of true love because it goes against the grain of their sentimental view of what love should be. Love, according to them, should be void of responsibility and effort: Someone else other than themselves should do what is required to own a valuable acquisition, then be so in love with them to part with his acquisition and bestow it upon them as a token of love. This, for many people, is what they term to be love. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth! The error with such a skewed idea of love becomes apparent when scaled up to a certain degree. You’ve got to think that if everyone is expecting this type of love from everyone around them, what sort of reality would we all live in? This is also the reason why frameworks of governance such as Communism never seem to self-perpetuate. They are literally designed with self-sabotage ab initio.

Now let me attempt to show you what true love looks like. The value chain of true love is a never-ending triangle/pyramid, while that of a corrupt version of love is a circle. Love never wants to start and end with self. It seeks to empower everyone it comes in contact with so they also can carry the torch of impact to the ends of the earth. The Abrahamic Covenant is after this kind! Where you become exceeding fruitful until Nations come out of your loins. (Genesis 14:6) Not because you give birth directly to a Nation at once, but that every person you touch, touches another until, after a while, you have a Nation. It may have started with you, but it sure doesn’t end with you.
Whenever Love is at work, there is an endless series of layers of people that will be inadvertently empowered by that single act of love as long as they activate the love in themselves too; People whom the initiator of the act may never live long enough to even meet for an autograph. Love in a man insists on putting the pressure of performance on the Imago Dei resident within his fellow man rather than turn those men into beneficiaries who are perpetually dependent on his benevolence. This is not to discredit the idea of charity, generosity and benevolence, not at all. Some people’s survival depends on other people’s benevolence, and that’s why the Bible instructs us as believers to cultivate the virtue of generosity.

However, charitable deeds that are void of true empowerment are the lowest form of benevolence. This is why Jesus made the statement; the poor you will always have. There will always be an opportunity to give to the poor because it is the pedestrian dimension to generosity; it’s never going to be urgent. However, there are some things you can do that will etch your name into a Gospel-grade memorial throughout the earth.

Our God is a Creative Force of Life! He created everything out of absolute nothingness, and the first set of words He uttered into man was that He must perpetuate that dimension by being Fruitful, Multiplying and Replenishing the Earth! Anything that shuts down your initiative to creatively produce with your own hands that which is good, by fully satisfying your every whim without your own contribution, is sent from hell to kill the nature of God within you! Because then, you will have no need to put pressure on the Creative Force of Live resident in your spirit, and you will have to depend on another mortal man for your own survival. That is sure not to path to replenishing the earth.

This is what makes Abraham such a role Model and the ultimate Patriarch of both Faith and Love. He left his Father’s house with Lot, whom he had no business taking along in the first place. One would think he needed Lot to be his personal aid, but no! Abraham simply wanted to empower Lot. He empowered Lot so much to the extent that the livestock Lot had gathered while learning from Abraham had become sufficient to compete with Abraham’s livestock. Ever heard of that? Where the apprentice you brought to Lagos from the village to learn the Mechanic work begins to get as many customers as you, the Oga, and still uses your Mechanic shop for his own repairs as well, without paying rent. 🤷🏾

The more interesting thing was the fact that Abraham was willing to let Lot go when he recognised how large they both had become, without having the famous conversation laced with entitlement that often happens around here. Abraham quite honestly made Lot who he became, but it was not Abraham’s to seek that credit. He simply loved, and that love involved empowering Lot to become independent of him. He was not interested in tying Lot to his aprons all the days of his life. True Love seeks to lay a demand on the Creative Force trapped within others.

So guess what? The Uncles and Mentors that challenge you to be more also love you. The strict Coach who, against all apparent limitations, keeps demanding your very best is a bigger fan of your capacity than the cheerleader who sings the praises of your mediocrity: The person who prioritises making you more, more than giving you more perhaps loves you more!

We need to see Love through the lens of Love Himself. This is why His Redemption plan involved lifting man above the beggarly elements of this world of sin. Instead of simply forgiving man and waiting till the next bath, He told man, “you too can become stronger than the pull of sin and have dominion over it!” This Gospel of helplessness is not of God! This idea that somehow, we have a destiny helper in whose hands lie the key to our open doors is simply desensitizing our consciousness to the dynamic power of the highest that is resident within us. My help is not in a man whose breath is as vapour, My help is in the Name of the Lord!

Remember the famous saying about giving fish to a person versus teaching the person how to catch fish? How that if you give a person fish, even though this person thanks you and sees you as his “helper”, sent from God to sustain him, you must realise that you have to wake up every single day of your life to catch enough fish in order to keep that person alive. Remember though, that you’re one person with limited time on earth. Meanwhile, it is only that person you will be able to keep alive while you’re alive… until you’re no more, which also means shortly after, he’d be no more as well. Charitable deed quite alright, but an extremely myopic strategy. Nothing multiplied, and no one is empowered. The only gain is that you’re seen, for however brief a period, as a Messiah! And that’s it! This is why the Bible in 1Cor13:3d TPT says, “… you gain nothing of value!” If all you get from your generosity is gratitude and the indebtedness of your beneficiaries, it is nothing!

On the other hand, give the hungry man some fish from your catch, so he doesn’t starve to death, then teach him how to catch fish, and you may have just saved a whole village from extinction. You’ve got to light the candles of those who may never be able to thank you with your acts of generosity.

Jesus was super excited to leave His disciples because He wasn’t interested in becoming the Center of their Universe (even though He absolutely is 😃). He instead gave them what made Him so powerful and influential; The Person and Gift of the Holy Spirit. Now that’s Love in HD!

The next time you’re about to extend love to someone, ask yourself, is this a circle love, the one that starts and ends with you? Or a triangle love, the one that starts with you but has an independent but limitless impact on the lives of others?

This week, determine to triangulate a person with love… 😄 The Lord bless your heart.

Have a remarkable week ahead.

Dami Oguntunde

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