Virtue #1: Charity – Acts 20:33-35

Posted by: cghearn | 07/06/2014 | 12:15 pm

How Do I Live A Life Of Charity?

Many believers in our culture wrestle with depression, anxiety, lack of identity, anger, and addiction. One question that the church must answer in our modern culture is how we can combat these problems and find the peace that is promised to us through being a believer. While our main concern is to lead our brothers and sisters to hope in eternity where these afflictions can no longer touch them, we cannot ignore the modern cultural trends and dilemmas. We as a society have devised many different ways to try and usher in contentment in a secular way and that way is often through ego-centrism and consumerism which both lead to greed.

There is a way in which Scripture tells us to find the peace and contentment which we so desperately seek. Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” We need to know how to be by Christ, live through Christ, and be in Christ in order to find contentment.

Illustration: I often imagine the conversations that must have been going on during various Bible stories. I often imagine that when Israel was stuck between the Red Sea and Egypt, with all their military power was bearing down on them, how the Israelites must have been trying to devise a plan. Some of them saying “Let’s start retreating down along the shore line!” thinking that they would go around their problems. Others were probably saying “We should surrender and hope our enemy will be merciful!” giving themselves over to their opposition. But I serve a God who sees options that we can’t; I serve a God who says “Go right through the middle.” The problem with this is that it is an option that was only possible through Him. Don’t avoid the issue, cut right through the center.

In Romans 12 we’re told “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” then again we’re told in Ephesians 4 “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” And then again in Colossians 3 “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” This means that if we’re going to be content we need to go through Christ which means we need to literally put him on and be him in every situation. If you’re looking to cure your mental issues, then you must put on Christ fully and completely without reservation. I believe that we do this through practicing virtue.

Evagrius Ponticus was a early Christian monk in the 4th century who first came up with a list of vices or sins that were extremely dangerous and in turn, a Christian governor by the name of Aurelius Prudentius Clemens added to the list of vices by in turn coming up with 7 virtues just before the turn of the 5th century. These 7 virtues are one of many ways in which we can learn to be like Christ in all things. However, there is a challenge that comes with putting on the new man who is being conformed to the image of Christ. The challenge that many people bring up in churches across our country on the Lord’s Day is to ask our congregation if they’d be willing to die for Christ. However in the West where we still have religious freedom, this isn’t the challenge we should be giving. My challenge to you is that I would challenge you to live for Christ and today, we’re going to find out how to do that through the first virtue known as charity.

Doctrine of sermon: Through a life of charity, we are able to live a life given freely to others

 How do I live a life of charity?: Do not covet

Paul is not stating a new command or idea here; it has been the same since God instituted the Law at Mount Sinai. The 10th Commandment is “You shall not covet…” Some of us in this room covet another person’s car, some men covet another man’s wife, some of you women covet another woman’s husband, and some of you simply wish you could trade your life for another person’s life. This is particularly true in America, us being the most affluent nation on the planet currently.

So let’s ask the question, “Why is coveting so wrong; doesn’t it simply drive us to do better and have better?” In this message, it would do all of us well to carefully distinguish between “competition” and “coveting.”

Illustration: A mother is preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, five, and Ryan, three. The boys begin to argue over who gets the first pancake and their mother sees the opportunity for a moral lesson. ‘If Jesus were sitting here,’ she says. ‘He would say, “Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.”’ Kevin turns to his brother and says, ‘Alright Ryan, then you’re Jesus.’

While competition is a conflict in which both parties competing agree to and play to a certain set of rules, envy decides to win or attain its end regardless of who is hurt or which guidelines are broken. This is the very reason that Satan was cast out of heaven and it was because he desired to be God and did everything he could to attain this goal. By the way, this is greed which is the opposite of charity. It is considered one of the “7 deadly sins.”

Illustration: Greed is not the flower in the garden, nor is it tree bringing shade; it is the weed that settles in among other plants, stealing their nutrients and water. It ultimately kills whatever is around it and it does it all just so it can have a few extra inches of dirt. You are not able to be both greedy and virtuous just as you aren’t able to have water that is hot and cold simultaneously. The hot mixes with the cold and likewise the cold with the hot and you are left with a lukewarm faith.

As believers, I need to tell you that it’s impossible to say that we have come to know the beauty of a giving God if we are also not givers ourselves because Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” If you can look to the cross of Christ and not see there the giving nature of God, then you haven’t understood the cross. The reason that Paul wasn’t interested in silver or gold was because he already had the greatest treasure which was Christ; the reason that he didn’t want their clothing was because he was already clothed in Christ. What better clothing can you find than that?

Redemption: The only way to overcome a nature of greed is to become charitable, rather than taking away, begin giving.

How do I live a life of charity?: Take care of your needs with your own hands, but also the needs of others

First, Paul is encouraging us to imitate him by taking care of our own needs with our own hands and secondarily, to also, by the same method provide for the needs of others also.

Many of us at this time would think of taking care of others around us by the sweat of our brows as learning to carry our cross, yet I would say that in comparison to bearing the great burden that doing otherwise brings, that to bear a cross, while a burden to the flesh is alleviating to the soul. The flesh says “make as much as you can with as little effort and commitment as possible.”

Illustration: I was trying to help out this one family one time that had a father who was fairly apathetic as the head of their household. I tried taking him to do side jobs so that he could make money, but oftentimes he wouldn’t show up. Finally I challenged him and told him that he should probably get a job and he told me that if he did that then he’d lose his unemployment and food stamps. I know another woman who often will pull her food stamp card out of her very expensive coach purse.

Paul is telling us here that we must minister to our own needs and the needs of others meaning that we need to work. This confronts the idea of blessing. Do you think God will bless more money that has been given without labor or less money that has been earned by the sweat of your brow? Now, understand that I’m not saying that there won’t be times where you simply cannot provide for yourself.

Illustration: During my first year of ministry, even with the church’s support and doing part time work, my family was still having trouble making ends meet. That’s when the Lord taught me humility because for about 6 months, twice a month, I would go to a food bank so that my family could still eat something else besides ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This wasn’t an issue of greed, rather an issue of being humbled.

While being humble enough to admit you need help is one thing, being greedy and continually helping yourself while not in turn helping another is another matter altogether. If we are to learn to be charitable on the deepest levels we need to not only see our own needs, but to look beyond ourselves and not turn a blind eye to the needs of others.

Turn with me if you will to James 2:14-17

Redemption: Charitable giving is not an option for the believer, for without it we have no true understanding of what it means to be blessed…

Point of Application

Greater blessing comes to those who give than to those who receive

The word for “blessing” in this passage is a derivative of “μακάριος” which is a general state of happiness. So this passage indicates that when you give, you will be happier than if you have received. This is one of the ways in which we fight off discontentment.

Have you ever noticed that often times, the wealthiest people in the world aren’t the happiest? Do you truly believe that by being wealthy and desiring to be rich, that you’re going to be happier?

Turn with me if you will to 1 Timothy 6:10

By being in love with money rather than seeing it as a tool to help others and provide necessary things for your family, it says that you will either pierce yourself through with many pangs (which is a sharp and sudden pain) or you will walk away from the faith entirely. Why is that? It’s because then your roots become saturated with Greed which is the opposite of Charity. When we ask a certain question it may force a person to examine their heart to see if they are filled with virtue or vice. That question is simply, why do you want more money? Is it so that you can be charitable or is it in order to satisfy your greed?

By the way, Jesus lived a life of complete and total charity. He was almost always giving his time to either his disciples or to worship his Father. Do you think of
Jesus as a sad, depressed individual? How do we think of Jesus in eternity?Do you think that this God who promises a joy that we’ve never known or could have known without him is really a big joy kill?

Illustration: Do you honestly think that Jesus won’t be smiling you when he greets you in eternity. As if he’ll be saying (with robot, stoic face), “Well done good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of the Lord.” Or maybe that at the marriage table of the lamb that we’ll raise our glasses with anything less than overflowing hearts?

Redemption: If we desire the happiness and blessing that comes from giving, it’s very simple…we must learn the virtue of charity.

Conclusion

Doctrine of sermon: Through a life of charity, we are able to live a life given freely to others

Application: If you are continually taking and receiving, yet you are never giving it’s no wonder that you’re depressed and you feel sick inside. You’ve bottled up all the blessing that God has given and you have not in turn blessed others. Charity allows us to experience the joy that comes from giving and allows us to forget our own worries for just a little while and entrust that God knows the means of grace that we can participate in that He will use to bless us.