What do I have that isn’t a gift from God? What can I possess that didn’t first come from Him? From the money in my pocket to the roof over my head to the very breath in my lungs, all of it is a gift from Him. He made the Heavens and the Earth, the mountains and the seas, the blue whales and the plankton… all that I can see and imagine came from Him. If I am grateful for the smallest nuances of life itself, can I be bitter in privation? Does my appreciation grow with plenty and shrink in poverty, or can I be at peace in the totality of creation?
The answer to this question takes us back before the foundations of the world… why are we here? Was there something lacking in God that He would need to create man? What is man that God would even take notice of him, let alone need him? Perhaps it is just the opposite… it’s not that God was incomplete without man but that there was something so overflowing in God that He desired to share it. God is love and we can learn something about Him in our creation in His own image and likeness—love begets. Through our creation as male and female, we also create new life in our love for one another. There are billions of people in the world because love is a primal urge within us as it is the identity of our Creator.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:16-19).
Love is an outpouring of the self. It is a sacrificial offering given from the heart of the giver—not dependent on reception nor reciprocation. It flows from the giver regardless of bounty and is found in great and small acts of charity. From our Lord on the cross to the widow’s offering of her meager savings (Mark 12:41-44), love is given because the giver chooses to give, not because the receiver desires to receive. Love is not pulled from the giver as a demand but springs from the giver as an offering. Therefore, my love for God and neighbor is not dependent upon the bounty I receive, just upon my free will inclined to sacrifice.
In love, God blesses us to be a blessing to others—to be a conduit of His love. To some, we provide from our bounty. To others, we show great love in giving from our poverty. Can there be a greater witness of love than to seek to help others when we ourselves are helpless? God showed His love for us by taking upon Himself all of our sins and dying for us when we were most unworthy (Rom 5:8). It is in our lowest moments that we are most open to Him. Sometimes, the poverty we feel is the blessing He is giving that we may know His boundless love apart from worldly riches. He can calm our storms (Mark 4:35-41). If the storms are still raging, it is for His purpose. So we must trust Him in all situations of life because all of them are His gift to us.
Each of us receives different gifts for serving in the Kingdom but we have one salvation—inheritance in the family of God (Gal 4:7). How can I be jealous of a man who appears to have more than me? Those are his gifts. Others may wish to have my gifts. There will always be someone with more and someone with less. Being joyful in both situations is recognizing that our blessings are not actually greater or less, only different. As such, having more is like having a cup that runs over—we should pour it out on those in need as an offering of love. Having less is like having a cup at the ready—to receive what is shared with us. If we are the body of Christ and His body functions like ours then we should see that nourishment to the extremities is provided by organs, vessels, and capillaries that move bodily resources where they are most needed. Our days spent in envy of each other are as wasted as a big toe that laments it isn’t a thumb. We are part of one body in Christ and as in our bodies, each of us has a function—a purpose. We are where God has placed us in the body so that the body may be complete.
Many Parts in One Body. For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
As members of the body of the one who is love-personified, how can we not love Him and one another? Cain asked if he should be his brother’s keeper (Gen 4:9)… the answer is yes! Just as bones protect the vital organs of the body and a body recoils from pain to the least extremity, so should we be hospitable to those with holy callings and help bear the burdens of the poor. Great in purpose, humility is our identity in communion with our Lord who deigned to confine Himself in human form to walk among us. He came to call all people away from the selfishness of sin to the self-giving of love. We carry on His mission as we resist all evil and do good even to those who hate us. May we endure any hardship for the glory of His Kingdom and bear any burden to bring others home to Him.
Mutual Love. Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all (Rom 12:3-18).
Consider the story of Job. He was a man whose righteousness impressed God. The devil contended that Job’s regard for God was due to his appreciation for God’s bounty toward him. The devil can’t understand love and humility. He only understands tit for tat. That’s why we make “deals with the devil” but have a relationship with our Lord. God allowed the devil to bring Job low as a lesson in love. How is this justice for Job? Why would God allow His faithful ones to be afflicted? Quite simply, we were not made to worship God for His bounties to us as to a gracious benefactor. We were made by Him who is love for loving communion with Him in a family relationship. He is treating Job as an extension of Himself and showing the devil what love means. Love isn’t affected by wealth or poverty. If we say we love only because we benefit, it isn’t love we feel but selfishness. The devil understands selfishness all too well. In Job’s trials is a lesson for the devil on his own poverty and a lesson for us on loving God in any worldly situation.
“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21).
We consider striving for more and becoming greater as part of the human condition. We want more wealth, fame, and adoration. Yet, most who have realized the heights of fame and fortune have found emptiness as a reward. It doesn’t belong to us by natural right and we can’t take it with us when we leave. Each of us has been blessed with talents to share and we use those to build the life we envision. We celebrate those who showed great love in their lives regardless of their social position. There are those among the wealthy who used their station to better the lives of others. There are the saints of the Church who regarded as nothing their mortal possessions. Even among those outside of the Church, stories are dedicated to the selfless. Consider Ghandi. He is said to have taken his inspiration from St Damien of Molokai whose humility saved the poor and outcast of Hawaii. In our kindness toward others, we show the eternal love of God to the world. We can take nothing with us when we leave and our kingdoms will crumble to ash, but our love will remain and cover the Earth.
Out of love for God, we seek to do His will. If we would do the will of God, we should start with the love and kindness we give to our neighbors—rejecting every kind of evil.
We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil (1 Thess 5:14-22).
That has been the message all along. God sent His prophets and gave His law simply so we could learn to love others as we ourselves want to be loved. In that, we show God the love we have for Him as we love those He loves.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets” (Matt 7:12).