Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Compare and Contrast - Charity & Community

I was reading some of Perkins' "Beyond Charity" where he talks about the difference between charity (not the biblical word for love, the modern practice of giving stuff to people to make yourself feel better about not being someone who depends on people giving them things to survive) and community development.

Then I was reading Acts 4 and 5 where Luke describes the situation of the early church. Here, like in Perkins' book, people in need are cared for.

So, my question for today - how does the early church practice compare to today?

The two are similar in that the people who had gave to the people who didn't. In this way everyone was taken care of. There has been a lot of political talk lately about "redistribution of wealth" and even some talk of the Bible's command to bring this about. Is this what we are reading about in Acts?

Another area of comparison is sacrifice. Many (we don't know if it was all) of the early Christians gave all they had to one another. They didn't give leftovers or just a portion, even though giving everything was not demanded of them. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead because they lied about giving, not because they withheld a portion of their giving. They didn't have to give all the money they had, they just had to be truthful about what they were giving.

The people had a choice as to what they gave, it wasn't mandated and it wasn't a tax. Giving is an individual choice, not a rule followed under threat of penalty. It is a way to show that you love your neighbor as yourself. It should make us happy to give, we should enjoy it. If we have to give, it isn't any fun.

The third area is relationship. These people lived life together. They didn't consider their possessions their own. They weren't giving up what they had, they were sharing it with people they cared about. The watch passed down from your grandfather to you has much more value than the one from the department store glass case. Why? Relationship.

Redistribution of wealth, welfare and even things like Product(Red) [love you, Bono], exist only because true giving does not. They exist because true charity does not. They exist because true love does not. They are Diet Coke, the unnatural, man-made substitute that will never really duplicate the original.

Ain't nothin' like the real thing baby.

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