Charity begins at home

Over the past few weeks we have been thinking about a selection of verses from Galatians 6.

The controlling idea of the first ten verses of this chapter is bearing each other’s burdens. In light of that we have attempted to put in place foundations that will aid the reversal of Darwinian Christianity. In other words, instead of ignoring each other’s burdens we have thought about bearing each other’s burdens. We have explored the difficult task of restoring brothers caught in sin. We have considered, albeit briefly, the unique relationship of the pastor and his congregation.

Today we come to Paul’s trump card – doing good. Paul writes, ‘So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith’ (Gal. 6:10 ESV). This is Paul’s trump card because doing good to our fellow Christians makes it difficult to try and kill them off.

This neatly ties this section off as doing good undoubtedly includes paying pastors and brothering brothers. Doing good is bearing burdens. But there is a little more to this verse.

The beginning of the verse may sound a little like a ‘get-out clause’ – ‘So then, as we have opportunity…’ This is not the case. Rather than allowing us to sit back until an opportunity arrives this phrase reminds us of the abundance of opportunities in this life. The Greek word is kairon, which can be translated as ‘time’. It speaks of a time to do good, an opportunity today. There is urgency to act in this little phrase because one day this life will be over and there will be no more opportunity, no more time.

What do we do with this opportunity? This time to act? We ‘do good to everyone’. This is an all encapsulating statement – church and community, friends and enemies, men and women, adult and child, Christian and unbeliever, locally and internationally. There is no exclusion in this statement.

Doing good to all may seem unrealistic and so priority appear in the next phrase though, ‘…especially to those who are the household of faith’. Paul is saying that charity begins at home. One older commentator talks about how our brothers and sisters have a peculiar, a special and distinctive, claim on us. The reason they have this peculiar claim on us is because they have the same interest in our Saviour because he is also their Saviour. In addition to this, the reality is that our brothers and sisters are the people we will spend eternity with. All of this means that we should have a special interest in doing good to our brothers and sisters, but this should not be an exclusive interest. Charity begins at home, but it should not end at home. That is why Paul’s previous statement is so important.

photo-24764091-business-people-with-hands-together-for-unityNevertheless, Paul is clear – charity begins at home, because when it does it is much more difficult to kill off our Christian brothers and sisters, it is much more difficult to step over brothers and sisters as they struggle through life.

How do we exercise this charity?

How do we do good to others?

Here are three principles which should help guide us in our thinking:

  • Do the unseen things

I am convinced that all churches are similar – whenever something significant is happening in the life of the church there will be many people willing to help. However, as far as the day to day stuff goes, there is not such a long list. Many people are keen to lend a hand when there is a big thank you announced in the church service next Sunday.

But what about the other stuff?

Who cleans the toilets, locks up the building, contacts people who have missed one or two Sundays, posts a card or leaves of a bunch of flowers, cuts someone’s grass, visits the elderly? Should this be left to the pastor and elders, or to paid staff, or to the deacons?

No – these are things that should be done by brothers and sisters for brothers and sisters. Although they are certainly not the only unseen things that can be done – they differ for each and every one of us. Therefore we must look at our own situations and figure out what unseen things we can do.

Are we willing to do the unseen things?

  • Do the small things

Often the unseen things are the small things; therefore there is a little overlap here.

Nonetheless, it is important to keep the small things in mind. Do we tidy up after ourselves? Are we eager to volunteer for the less glamorous roles? Do we keep an eye out for jobs that need done here and there? Do we drop a card through a grieving brother or sister’s door? Do we drop a bunch of flowers of to a widow? Do we spend an hour listening to an elderly member who rambles a bit?

These kinds of things won’t gain you recognition church wide, they won’t impact a vast majority of the congregation, they won’t seem overly worthwhile because you don’t get a thank you, but they are good things to do for our brothers and sisters.

Are we willing to do the small things?

  • Do the same things

There is nothing worse than somebody starting to do these things and then dropping them halfway through. Do the small and unseen things over and over again.

This is not an excuse to do things just because they have always been done. Rather, it is a call to maintain a habit of doing good things for the household of faith. Don’t just visit that elderly shut-in once; don’t just buy one widow in church a bunch of flowers; don’t just tidy up after yourself when you are responsible for the ministry; don’t just visit a grieving brother or sister once after their loss. Maintain these things, do the same things again and again. Create a holy habit of doing good.

Are we willing to do things continually?

 

Charity begins at home; and while it certainly must not remain at home, if you can’t and don’t do good to your brothers and sisters in Christ, the good done to those outside of Christ is hypocrisy. Bonhoeffer once said ‘It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren’ (quoted in Scot McKnight NIVAC: Galatians, pg 294). To live in community with our brothers and sisters is a privilege – let us make the most of that privilege.

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