A story told in Judges chapters nineteen through twenty-one regarding a Levite and his concubine would have an “R” rating if made into a motion picture. The chronicles include a troubled marriage, restoration, perversion, lust, gang rape, murder, retaliation, war, abduction, and general unrighteousness where the people did what was right in their own eyes. It begins as the concubine deserted her master and returned to her father. The Levite went to her, was loving to her and set out to take her home. Her father referred to him as a son-in-law, so for all intents and purposes, the concubine, although be it his servant, was his wife. On a very long journey, they retreated to a town called Gibeah. Here they met an old man in the open square of the city who inquired where they were going and where they had come from. The travelers reported no one would take them in for lodging. Verses twenty and twenty-one from chapter nineteen say, And the old man said, “Peace be with you! However, let all your needs be my responsibility; only do not spend the night in the open square.” So he brought him into his house, and gave fodder to the donkeys. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank. Pieced inside the narrative of the three chapters was the graciousness of the old man. His CHARITY toward the sojourners mirrored the love of God. Horrors following his acts of mercy are difficult to ingest.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary regarding the old man from Mount Ephraim showing kindness to the Levite, his concubine, and his servant reads, “How free and generous he was in his invitation. He did not wait until they begged him for a night’s lodging. Thus our good God answers before we call. Note, a charitable disposition expects only opportunity, not importunity (pressing solicitation or urgent request), to do good, and will give aid when it sees need, even without a request. Charity is not apt to distrust, but always hopes (1 Cor. 13:7).” Britannica.com defines CHARITY as “in Christian thought, the highest form of love, signifying the reciprocal love between God and man that is made manifest in unselfish love of one’s fellow men.”
CHARITY is not something to make us feel good, a tax benefit, or something given out of pressure. It is certainly not for recognition or pity. It is a generous disposition expecting an opportunity to do good. This implies looking for situations to bless others with the love of God. Our culture of “me first” keeps every possession, talent, and quantity of time, and IF giving is initiated, oftentimes an ulterior motive drives the gift. Selfishness cannot attain the level of CHARITY where one seeks an opportunity to aid even without a request. God emulates CHARITY. Should we not aspire to develop this character quality? How many times have I overlooked a circumstance by ignorance or by my own will? I believe in giving. It helps us look at another’s need above our own. The practice of giving develops a generous heart. But CHARITY is the highest form of generosity. Because CHARITY involves the love of God. For when we answer a call before someone urgently requests a need, we are most like God, for He is love.
This past weekend I was the recipient of CHARITY. I went away for a weekend retreat, blessing six single Mom’s of children with special needs. We stayed in an extravagant lake house, each with our own rooms, and were treated as royalty. We were not allowed to do anything except rest and receive. Words were reiterated, “We are here to serve you.” Anonymous donors gave us gifts. Food was abundant. Wisdom was shared. I wept several times never having experienced such love from strangers. It was one of the most incredible tangible displays of God’s love. The leaders looked for every opportunity to give. I was shown CHARITY in a way that not only blessed me, but has ignited a hunger in me to pursue. Giving will never be enough again. I want to be set apart in CHARITY. It was impactful to read the story in Judges about the kindness and hospitality of the old man. I gained a deeper understanding of the meaning from Matthew Henry’s Commentary. However; my heart was changed by the demonstration of CHARITY. Our beliefs mean nothing if we fail to put them into practice. God tells us that faith without works is dead.
Time to get busy.