On Giving Hope & Charity

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Cyndy and I have been watching the PBS series Poldark this summer.   It’s a Masterpiece series set in England in the early 1800s.  The main character, Ross, is not only a hunk, but he is incredibly active in fighting for the poor in his country.  In one of the episodes last week he was furious at the Christian idea of “charity.”  As you may know, the key scripture passage that we often call the “love” chapter: 1 Corinthians 13, is translated interestingly in the King James Version of the Bible. Instead of using the word “love,” it uses the word “charity.”  And so, at the end of chapter 13 when we read in the NRSV, “and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”  The King James Version reads “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and charity.  And the greatest of these is charity.”   

 Interesting translation isn’t it?  What do you think?  Personally, I am not a fan! Charity, to me, to lack the depth and complexity that love seems to imply.   

 In the show, Ross has been trying to fight in the English parliament for legislation that will remove some of the burden on the poor and allow them to make a living wage.   Ross Poldark fights admirably for this bill, unfortunately it fails.  That night he is invited to attend a “charity” ball put on by the rich of London.  The ball raises significant money for the poor, but Poldark sees it as a way for the rich and the legislature to placate their conscience...for not passing the bill.

 In a dramatic speech (the show is full of them) Poldark says, “I want to give the poor hope, not charity.  Charity just keeps them in the same position, hope gives them a chance to change their destiny.”

 I’ve always been a component of both hope and charity.   There is something good about helping people make it through another day, another month, another year.  But charity alone is not enough.  I believe that we are always called, as God’s people, to give people hope in this world.  To give people a door, an opportunity, to step up and improve their situation and their family’s situation.

 Charity isn’t easy work, but it can sometimes become something we use to feel good about ourselves.  It can sometimes become the “easier” way.  Giving hope, on the other hand, requires us to dig deeper into the root causes of pain and try to not only enact that change but to change ourselves.

 My hope is that Bear Creek UMC can not only be a place of charity but will also become a place that gives people hope.  God gave hope through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus.  God didn’t call that charity.  God called that love. For God, love meant sacrifice.

 May God inspire us to that same love…to that same kind of sacrifice

 Your friend and pastor, learning to live hope, Brook 

Tim Schaaf