And if thy brother be waxen poor and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
~ Leviticus 25:35-37 ~
In this modern world plagued with counterfeits for the Lord’s plan, we must not be misled into supposing that we can discharge our obligations to the poor and the needy by shifting the responsibility to some governmental or other public agency. Only by voluntarily giving out of an abundant love for our neighbors can we develop that charity characterized by Mormon as “the pure love of Christ.” (Moro. 7:47.) This we must develop if we would obtain eternal life.
~ Marion G. Romney – Caring for the Poor and Needy – Ensign, January 1973 ~
Next to humility – Charity is the most important virtues of our faith. The Apostle Paul observed that all spiritual gift pales in comparison to the virtue of charity (1 Corinthians 13). And what is charity? To show compassion and mercy to those who are suffering. To those who are in need. To those who are struggling. Charity is the heart and soul of service and ministry. Without compassion and mercy, no other spiritual gifts have any purpose or meaning – not even our own faith in God. The Apostle concludes that there are three important things in our lives: Faith, Hope, and Charity. His conclusion is that Charity is the greatest of the three.
Charity is the Pure Love of Christ
The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds or benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive (1 Cor. 8:1; 13:1–4, 8; 13; 14:1. Cf. Moro. 7:47)
Not only is charity the greatest of all virtues – but it is also the key virtue pertaining to our salvation and eternal life. This is evident when we read the words of Peter:
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.2 Peter 1:3-12, KJV
Here, we see Peter admonishing us that we through Christ, our Heavenly Father has given each of us those things pertaining to life and godliness. He then instructs that we are to add to our faith virtue. From there, knowledge is increased. Because of knowledge, we are tempered. This, in turn, produces patience. From there, we grow in godliness. At this point, we show brotherly kindness to where charity abounds. And the promise is that we will not ever fail – instead, we will be blessed and fruitful in all things.
This ties our relationship with our Heavenly Father directly to how we minister and serve others, ministering to their needs. And this may deepen, and hopefully enrich, our understanding of what King Benjamin said:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.Mosiah 2:17
READ THIS BYU DEVOTIONAL by Charles A. Didier October 9, 2002
Here, we learn that wisdom coincides with service and ministering to others. It is the care given, or the work done, for the benefit of our Heavenly Father. It is the care, and work done, for the benefit of others. Thus, when we are serving and ministering to the needs of family, friends, neighbors, and strangers – we are serving God.
Christ made this emphatically clear in his parable where he likened those who ministered to others as sheep compared to those who turned away from ministering to the needs of others as goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
Charity is Unselfish Service
Our culture and society are hallmarked by the incessant need of selfish motivations and agenda. Today, there is a lack of unselfish service toward one another. And sadly, this is quite prevalent within our congregations. The lack of unselfish service toward others appears to be missing from the messages that come from the pulpits:
The worldly aspiration of our day is to get something for nothing. The ancient evil of greed shows its face in the assertion of entitlement: I am entitled to this or that because of who I am—a son or a daughter, a citizen, a victim, or a member of some other group. Entitlement is generally selfish. It demands much, and it gives little or nothing. Its very concept causes us to seek to elevate ourselves above those around us. This separates us from the divine, evenhanded standard of reward that when anyone obtains any blessing from God, it is by obedience to the law on which that blessing is predicated (see D&C 130:21).Dallin H. Oaks – Unselfish Service – May 2009 General Conference
Our attitude and mindset ought to return back to what scripture has taught us – that we are to serve and minister without any personal gain or reward. The moment we do so appears to be the moment we lose out on those inherit blessings that come with genuine, meaningful service and ministry.
Faithful and Genuine Service and Ministering Begets Eternal Blessings
Since our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is tied to our relationship in ministering and serving others – there are significant and inherit eternal blessings bestowed upon us.
First, any faithful giving precedes blessings. According to Malachi 3:10-12, the Lord challenges us to prove him herewith by the giving of tithes and offerings. The Apostle Paul reminded the Christians at Corinth of those blessings they’ll receive in their giving. Most of us are familiar with the oft quoted passage: for God loveth a cheerful giver. However, let us not neglect what came before. Paul taught that those who soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:1-15). The Apostle Paul further admonished not to give grudgingly and to give according as he purposeth in his heart. The key here is to do so – not out of necessity or compulsory – to do so with a willingness of heart as a thanksgiving to God. Secondly, our generosity precedes blessings. When we sow generously – we will be blessed greatly. And the greater the increase – the greater our ability to bless others.
Charity is Opposite of Criticism and Judgment
Let us go back to what charity is – the pure love of Christ. It is showing compassion and mercy toward another person. It is tied in with our tithes and offerings to help sustain those experiencing poverty. It is serving and ministering to meet the temporal and spiritual needs of an individual. It is done out of generosity and given liberally – without reward or personal gain. However, charity is much more than this. It is the opposite of criticism and judgment.
Thomas S. Monson reminds of this truth:
There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.October General Conference 2010 – Charity Never Faileth
What Monson is teaching is that charity is patient and tolerant in view of forgiveness. Here, he admonishes us to see Charity as follows:
- Refuses to be satisfied through means of gossiping about another’s misfortune
- Patience with someone who may have disappointed us
- Resists the natural impulsivity of becoming offended
- Accepting and tolerant of another person’s weaknesses and shortcomings
- Meeting people where they are and accepting them for who they are
- It is the pure love of Christ put into action
When we put off the spirit of criticism. Remove ourselves from the seat of judgment – are we then truly capable and empowered to serve and minister to others. Because of the pure love of Christ – we see another as Christ sees them. Because of the pure love of Christ, we see them as our Heavenly Father sees them. And this – because we have allowed our spiritual eyes to be opened to the things of God. Otherwise, we remain blind to those things that will bring blessings into the lives of those whom we are called to serve and minister.
As we go forward with faith and purpose – let us do so with charity. Go forward with faith and purpose to serve and minister. To give generously and liberally. To prove God in our tithes and offerings. Put off the natural tendencies to stand in criticism and judgment toward others and see them as our Heavenly Father sees them. For this is the heart and pure love of Christ – to love others as we love ourselves and to not think too highly of ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
Meditate and Ponder
How challenging is it for you to go forward with faith and purpose so that you are able to effectively serve and minister to others? Have you given of time, money, and resources sparingly and wondered why blessings are sparingly in your life? What are your thoughts concerning charity as the key to our eternal life and immortality? How is it a link between our relationship with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and those around us? How committed are you to put aside any criticism and judgment of others and put faith, hope, and charity in action?