“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” 1 Corinthians 13:3, The Message
There are passages of Scripture that keep me up at night, checking my motives. This is one of them.
Even if we were given unlimited resources to help the poor and had the most committed, talented and dedicated people on the team – without love, we would still have nothing. Sobering thoughts.
When most people consider how to best help the poor, the focus of the conversation is on methodology and best practices. Don’t hear me incorrectly; there is nothing wrong with passionately pursuing best strategies for assisting the most vulnerable. In fact, Food for the Hungry is committed to excellence as we help communities break free from the cycle of poverty.
However, this verse compels us to consider the necessity of love as we help others.
Before we try and manufacture this love ourselves, we must remember the source of the fuel that motivates our journey. Our love for the vulnerable flows out of God’s unmerited love for us. While we were still broken, poor and guilty of sin, Christ died for us, adopting us into God’s family.
Love necessitates counter-cultural relationship
With the love of God defining our identity, we are invited to pursue relationships where we have nothing to gain. The Book of Proverbs paints an accurate, yet grim forecast regarding the relationship opportunities for the poor. With no earthy motivation to befriend the poor, society keeps their distance. The vulnerable have little opportunity to network and initiate relationships with others. But we are called to a biblical and counter-cultural response – to build relationships with people that society ignores, but who are greatly valued by God.
As these relationships develop and blossom, we graciously share and provide for the stranger not because of our wealth, but because we were once lost and vulnerable as well.
One simple way to start this type of relationship is through child sponsorship. When a child across the ocean receives word that a person in a foreign country wants to hear his or her story and help, that child’s life is radically changed.
We cannot produce the love we need to serve the poor. This love is graced upon us from God and changes the passion in which we care for and build relationships with the poor. As 1 Corinthians 13 continues (v4.7) . . .
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.