I am no longer surprised by how the best of things can become areas of contention among the good folks. That little red kettle has over the years become entwined with Christmas to the point that when we hear that little bell ringing, we look for that little red kettle. Ever wonder where that came from? Well, it got its start in 1891 in San Francisco.
Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was aware of the many poor individuals in San Francisco that were going hungry every day and their numbers were growing every day. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project. His thoughts took him back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. There was this place where the boats came in and placed there was a large iron pot into which people passing by would toss coins in to help the poor. The very next day Captain McFee placed a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing and beside the pot he placed a sign that read Keep The Pot Boiling. He soon had the needed funds to make it possible to feed at least 1000 people who holiday season. There is a lot more to this story but it will do to just point out that the Little Red Kettle is all over our world today.
A recent discussion made me aware of how the biblical view of charity is so much different from the way some people view “charity”. As usual as per my habit, let’s look at some definitions of the word charity.
: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering
also : aid given to those in need
: an institution engaged in relief of the poor
: public provision for the relief of the needy
: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
I am going to break this down a little more. The first one listed defines the parameters and the motivator for such actions. The next two indicate an organizational approach to help those in need. That last one is the biblical equivalent of a very well-known verse….. Matthew 25
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
Why has charity become a contentious issue? I would venture the need to control, the insertion of qualifiers and the cynical attitude of we who have and a lack of compassion which has been replaced by an unqualified judgmental attitude on our part. These things, the first two are debatable but the lack of compassion and a judgmental attitude is in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ and our Christian values.
Consider these verses 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8, 10.
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. ……….
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
First off Paul says that no one is ever a loser through generosity. While these New Testament verses never suggest material rewards, such as the wealth of things, they do point to the wealth of a glad heart and spirit, there is even more to be considered. You will be rich in love and friends. When we allow our hearts to love others our love will be returned. We will be rich in help.There will come a day when all of us at one time or another will need help, of some kind. If we have been willing to help others there is a good chance there will be others willing to help us. Remember Matthew 25: 35-36, Jesus taught us that what we do to others we do for God. Make no mistake there will be a day that every time we opened our heart to others it will stand well in our favor. Now there are three benefits of generous giving.
-It does something for others.
-It does something for ourselves.
-It does something for God.
The Christian side of this is very plain and simple. There are no additional laws or procedures to be considered. John 13: 34-35
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Perhaps this is a bit to literal for the secular mind but this is one of the hard parts for us as mortals to understand. True Christianity is love and caring for others without judgmental prerequisites. In the Christian world there should be no committee to decide the worth of a need……just the love needed to meet that need.
Life is Good
Reference Material Daily Bible Study – William Barclay
Salvation Army – Red Kettle