There are a handful of doctrines that have changed everything for me. Doctrines that help me see everything else through a different lens. I can always trace it back to a day where things clicked and then everything else made more sense because I understood that pivotal doctrine. Charity is one of those doctrines for me.
I had been teaching seminary for three years and I was preparing to teach 1 Corinthians 13. I started to study this chapter and I started to dive into everything that Paul was saying Charity is and is not. You can read my scripture journal notes about this chapter HERE.
I encourage you to really study that chapter. But, here are a few things I have learned about charity since that day:
1- Charity is the “pure love of Christ”.
Pure means undefiled. So if I am able to love like Christ loves, I have no other motivation or agenda other than to love you and desire the best for you.
But what is “the best”? Moses 1:39 teaches “For Behold, it is my work and my glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” So there it is, because Christ loves us, he is focused on our gaining immortality and eternal life. He wants the best for us, and He knows what the best is.
Since immortality was taken care of with Christ’s resurrection, then the variable left is whether or not we will gain Eternal Life. Eternal Life is the kind of life that God lives. He has Eternal (limitless) knowledge, powers, Priesthood, and posterity. Therefore if I love you with Christlike love then I will do all I can to help you achieve Eternal Life. I will pray for you, teach you, praise you, cheer you on, correct you and help you any weaknesses holding you back.
So Christlike love is not just feeling or expressing love to someone. It is serving you so you can grow and grow.
2- Charity perfects you.
The beautiful thing about charity is that as you seek to help others you will perfect yourself. If I am seeking to help you gain eternal life, that will require a LOT of skill and knowledge on my part.
Teaching seminary was a good training ground for me on this.
I couldn’t just lecture my students and say, “well I told them all about that doctrine”. I may have told them, but not in a way that they could hear it. Many of them may require a different type of teaching. Maybe some of them learned better from stories, while others learned better with a hands-on activity where they discovered. Others do better in a discussion setting with a thought out set of questioning, while others learn as other students testify. And most of them learn best with a good variety of different techniques.
So, if I wanted to truly teach, then I had a lot of skills to learn. And it was a lot of work and effort to do that! But my ability to give them what they needed was the only thing I could change. So I had to respond to that.
This is the beautiful thing about the gifts of the Spirit. They are available for us and Charity is the great motivator for us to lay ahold of them. And as we lay hold of them for the benefit of others, in turn we become truly powerful and more influential.
3- Pride, Charity and the Good Samaritan.
Pride is the expert destroyer of Charity. It penetrates every home, neighborhood, school, workplace, nation, race, religion, opinion, and viewpoint. And often, we can confuse pride for charity.
– We may want our school to win this game because we love our school. Do you want them to win because they have worked really hard, or because you don’t want to lose to the other team? They are very different reasons. How do you feel when your school wins? Do you feel proud that your school is elevated over the other? “We’re #1” is a lot different than “good job”. Do you feel compassion for the other school when they lost? How do you feel when you lose? Do you feel increased hatred for the other school? If so, why? It is just another school with students just like you.
– A mother, who has great charity for her child, may be upset when someone else gets chosen for that part in the school play. Why? Can we feel compassion for our child while still feeling joy for the other person chosen? Or does our charity have limitations?
– In our families we may have feelings of resentment, jealousy or anger as we compare other’s successes to ours. The very people we love so much, we may compete with. Does it really have something to do with them, or would we do that with any person who would happen to be in our family?
The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches charity beautifully. The parable was given in response to this occurrence: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). This is a man who is not asking with a pure heart, he knows the law and he is hoping to trap Jesus.
“He [Christ]said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Luke 10:26). This response is brilliant.
“And he [the lawyer] answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he [Christ] said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live [have eternal life] (Luke 10:27-28). So, this man knows the answer. But he also knows the Jewish law that there are certain people they were not to interact with because they were unclean, and such an interaction would defile you. So, he asks:
“But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29) There it is. What is Jesus going to say? If he says “all men”, then they can accuse him of breaking Jewish law. How Jesus answered was perfect.
He answers by giving a parable about a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jericho was a place that the temple priests lived. When their time of temple service had arrived, they would travel the brutally hot and steep 28 miles to get to the temple, and then back home again by the same route. Often travelers would travel in a caravan to avoid the thieves who were hiding and hoping to find lone travelers who would likely be carrying money and valuables.
So who is this man who is beaten and lying half dead by these thieves? Likely a Priest. And who passes by him? A Priest and a Levite! Who should be most likely to help him? A Priest and a Levite!
Are we ever like the Priest and the Levite? Passing by someone who we, of all people, should be helping?
And who does help the man? A Samaritan. Samaritans were from Samaria and they were bitter enemies of the Jews. But HE helped! And He didn’t just give him a little help, but made certain that this man was fully taken care of. He served him exactly how he needed to be served, not merely doing only what was convenient for the Samaritan.
“Go and do thou likewise” was the Savior’s conclusion of this parable. Stop the comparisons, the blame, the justifications, the competitions and the making of enemies. Love each other. This is how we gain eternal life.
1 Corinthians 8 is another chapter that addresses the danger of pride and the solution of charity. You can read an article I wrote about this HERE.
4- There is no fear in Charity
I John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.”
Charity is the great motivator because if we truly desire to help someone we will do it despite any fear we have.
– If I have a beautiful singing voice, I will volunteer despite my fears, so I can share the message of this song with you.
I will accept the invitation to speak in church even though my legs will shake, and I will do all I can to prepare a message that will bless those listening.
– I will study the scriptures even though they are hard to understand so I can know God’s will so I can give the best counsel to my children.
– I will call that lady in my ward to see how she is doing, even though she may think I am weird.
– I will give that compliment even though I may feel dumb.
– I will find a way to talk to this person who is making bad choices, because I love them even though they may attack me.
– I will go on a mission even though it really scares me to leave home.
– I will volunteer to pray for the class even though my voice may tremble.
– I will stand up for that girl my friends are talking about, even though they may turn on me.
Perfect love casteth out fear, because the charity we feel is so strong we are willing to do hard things. And, may I add, that with each of those situations above you could consider greater skills, work and effort put in to each situation so that we become even better and more effective at it, which allows us to give even more to those we love.
For example, if I want to be able to influence someone to make better choices in their life, I would work on my own skills first. I may learn how to listen effectively so I can know where they are really coming from. I may work and pray for the ability to explain things with power. I may become better at showing increased love outside of any crucial conversation we may have. I can’t just say, “well I talked to them” – that isn’t charity in its fullness.
5- Gaining Charity
Charity is not something we will just have one day. We can have our understanding increased in one day, but that will just set us on the journey of slowly chipping away at ourselves as we become more and more able to love like Christ loves. We have to put away the natural man in us and it will take a lot of self-awareness and repentance to do that.
For me, it is one of my great barometers of how I am doing spiritually. When I can look at others and have my heart filled with love for them, I know I am doing ok. But when I start being critical, easily offended and annoyed, I must check myself and realize that it isn’t at all about them, but that I need to do some re-aligning.
I suppose that is why Christ said to the twelve Apostles: “By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). That is how you can recognize a true disciple. And when we see it, we should stop and admire it, because they are walking witnesses that we can become like the Savior.
Here is our printable teaching package for the lesson “How Can I Develop Christlike Love?”
You can read more about this package HERE
Or it is available in our October combo package HERE.