1Co 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
This verse mentions three things that endure; they are faith, hope and charity. There is a great emphasis on faith and hope. The world debates endlessly about what we should believe are the truth and what our hopes should be centered on. It is interesting that the scriptures say that charity is greater than faith and hope. Let us examine why this is the case.
The word charity is used to express the most sacrificial love. Charity is the act of giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return. It requires the giver to genuinely care about the receiver and it provokes gratitude in the heart of the receiver. It teaches the giver to have gratitude for the prosperity they have to share. Gratitude is a powerful principle that can work many good things into our lives. As a minister of the gospel I have received many charitable gifts. These gifts were timely answers to prayer for our material needs. The gratitude that was created within me when I received charity caused me to strive to be a giver of charity to others. I also noted how it was strength to the giver as they realized they could be a tool in the hand of God to help someone else.
God gave us two ways by which our needs could be met. The first way is work. The second way is charity. Those with resources to give will not learn that all comes from God unless they see what they must do to meet the needs of others. Those with needs will never learn to work and then be able to give to others unless they have a grateful heart for how God has provided for them through charity. How can we understand faith and have our hope anchored on the right things unless we have practiced the highest order of love or received it. This may be why charity is greater than faith and hope. Charity leads us to genuine faith and glorious hope.
The enemy of charity is entitlement. Recent American history is an example of how entitlement can destroy charity and rob a culture of faith and hope. It seemed reasonable to create a war on poverty in a nation of such historic prosperity. Why should there be people living in poverty in the greatest nation on earth? It made hard working Americans feel proud to help the less fortunate. America is still one of the most charitable nations on earth. It felt right to care for the welfare of others. Then something began to happen to our welfare programs. They began to feel less like charity and more like entitlement. Now the prosperous are made to feel guilty for success. It feels like they owe others a debt because they have more material goods. They feel like there are powers that want to negate the fruit of their labors and take from them and give it to others without regard of the recipient’s worthiness or use of the gift. It is no longer an act of charity to give willingly to help others but a mandate that must be fulfilled or face the threat of legal retaliation.
An entitlement mentality causes the less fortunate to have envy for the prosperous and then the result is to covet, which is a violation of God’s law. Covetous leads to class warfare, stealing and social division. People stop caring for each other. Mutual respect is lost and gratitude for each other is forsaken. It is a sad time in our culture when charity and all of its benefits are sacrificed at the altar of entitlement. The entitlement mentality causes people to feel that life owes them material things without having to earn them or receive them with gratitude. Entitlement enslaves people to a bitter and covetous lifestyle. Charity liberates and inspires the giver and the receiver.
May God grant us the grace to live a life based on charity. May we be an example of the power of charity.