1 Corinthians 13:3, Part 2

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)

In the first part of this little reflection of 1 Corinthians 13:3, I really talked about one side of the coin: Giving of yourself without love is not what God desires.

In the second part, I want to talk about the other side of the coin: Loving without giving of yourself is not what God desires, either.

I think there is an easy “slide” that goes something like this: God doesn’t even count all that money AND TIME people give to the poor when they have bad motives . . Just look at Jenny Sue.  She’s always helping out at the soup kitchen just to make herself look sweet.  Well, I’m no hypocrite.  I’m just not going to give my money or time to the poor.  I’ll just love God from my heart, and I’ll be real about it.

Hold on.  God wants us to give of ourselves only with love.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to give of ourselves.

That logic doesn’t work.  What if I said, “I don’t want to you to bring home groceries if it’s going to be junk food.”  Does that mean I don’t want you to bring home groceries?

Have you ever had somebody help you in a way that wasn’t helpful, but when you suggest a way that is helpful, they get offended and don’t want to help anymore?  What they don’t understand is that they weren’t helping in the first place and they could really have been helpful if they’d listened!

1 Corinthians 13:3 is not giving you an excuse to withdraw from missions or withhold contributions.  Instead, the focus is on doing everything for God for the right reason, which is love.

If God calls me to give all my money to the poor, or go serve Him in a rural village without electricity, I can’t choose to disobey Him because I don’t love.  Instead, I am commanded to obey Him in love.  Obedience and love go hand in hand when it’s God we’re talking about.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV)

Jesus isn’t asking us to think about loving.  He’s commanding us, who are believers, to love.  And we can have confidence we can obey Him because He has given us new hearts.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26, HCSB)

Early on, I told Ben how special cards are to me, especially store-bought cards, especially if they have a Hallmark symbol on them.  😉  I grew up watching Hallmark movies with the Hallmark commercials in between movie scenes.  I often loved the commercials as much as the movies!  My little girl heart was wooed by the little boy who placed dinosaur stickers on a card for his mother and drew a Hallmark symbol on the back.  (That was probably my favorite commercial of Hallmark’s, but I could happily own DVD’s of the commercials.)

Anyway, Ben came from, well, an opposite point of view.  That holidays had been commercialized by greeting card companies to say cheap, trite sentiments and make wallets lighter.  (Apparently he hadn’t watched the commercial with the little boy and the dinosaur stickers.)

He expressed his opinion to me and I was quite a lot of unhappy about it.  First, since I had been 7 years old or so and watched my first Hallmark movie, the commercials had begun prepping me for that a knight in shining armor who was going to buy me Hallmark cards someday.

Hallmark didn’t need to target commercials to boys like Ben.  Why?  Because, one day, Hallmark-grouching boys like Ben may fall in love with Hallmark-dreamy girls like me and then they’ll be the ones in the Hallmark store, shelling out the dollars.  🙂

And that is just what happened.  (Well, Ben does usually buy me other brands of cards, but we’re working up to the Hallmarks.  Baby steps. 😉 )

Ben realized that greeting cards need no translation into my love language.

In my head are dreams of envelopes with a gold seal.  I will open the envelope without tearing it, and inside will be a beautiful, big Hallmark card.  (I will know because, like everyone in the commercials, I will turn it over and check the back.)  And then something really romantic will happen.  Swans will sing.  Or fireworks will start.  Or we’ll be standing next to a water fountain.  Or we’ll be on an ice skating rink even though I can’t skate and will probably twist my ankle.  Or we’ll be in a forest with autumn leaves.  Or we’ll be on a rocky ocean bank with seagulls in the background.  Or maybe it’ll be over a candlelight dinner at Christmas time.

So I will open that envelope, and inside will be that Hallmark card, and then we’ll get married (we’ll have to, because he got me a Hallmark card).  😀

Today I opened one of the cards I have unopened still from the mailbox.  It had flowers, and cursive words on the front.  That was a real good sign.  The edge was even scalloped.  And there was a long, handwritten message on the inside.  And the card had my name above the little poem on the inside, and his name below.  It wasn’t a Hallmark, but it did cost $3.89, so I felt really good about it.  🙂

Now why did he go and buy a commercialized greeting card for me?  He, who was once the anti-card-industry spokesperson?  😉  I’ll tell you why.  Because he loves me!

You know, when we love God, we do things we might not do on our own.  We might give money that’s hard to give, to somebody who needs it more than we do.  We might quit our job and move to a village that has never heard the Good News of Christ.

I would never have wanted a card from Ben if he’d tossed it at me and said, “I hate these, but here you go.”  In the same way, God doesn’t want gifts of money or service that are given grudgingly or egotistically.  God wants us to give out of love.  Otherwise, the gift is as empty as a card would be from Ben if he’d grabbed the first one off the shelf, signed it fast, and jammed in an envelope.

God doesn’t want only our allegiance.  He wants our devotion.

The point of 1 Corinthians 13:3 isn’t that we don’t give.  The point of this verse is that we give from love.

I love my card, Ben.

And God loves when we give out of love for Him.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)


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