If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Now, the Corinthians continue… how about charitable work? We love to give to worthy causes. Doesn’t this qualify for maturity?
Paul says: Without Love Giving and Sacrifice are Worthless.
We all know how important giving is. We keep the lights on, support foreign missionaries, throw Harvest parties for the children of our city, feed the poor… what could be more blessed than that?
Now in Paul’s day the Jews saw alms giving as one of the greatest acts of devotion. The early Christians continued with that tradition and saw it as an important display of piety. In Galatians 2:10, the early church said it was okay for Paul to go to the Gentiles and minister… just for him to continue to remember the poor. Paul isn’t saying that giving is wrong… he just says it needs to be done with love.
In fact in Paul’s example he goes to the extreme: Suppose someone gave their body to be burned… A martyr for the cause of Christ. We not have many people doing such things today… but we do have people “burn themselves out” for the Lord.
Paul says that even one that possessed such devotion… without love to motivate it… it would be of no value to the person that sacrificed. It will just leave your pockets empty and your flesh charred.
World Vision Founder Bob Pierce lived by the motto that God’s workers should “burn out, not rust out.” The man’s intense devotion
to have his heart break with the things that break the heart of God… led to a highly successful ministry to the world’s poor.
But author Tim Stafford writes: “The same intensity led to his downfall. He had an ungoverned temper and frequently clashed with the World Vision board, particularly over his insistence on making financial commitments on the fly. He traveled as much as 10 months of the year, and his family suffered. “I’ve made an agreement with God,” he said, “that I’ll take care of his helpless little lambs overseas if he’ll take care of mine at home.” In 1963 he had a nervous breakdown. For nine months he almost disappeared, preferring to travel the world rather than return home. In 1967 he resigned from World Vision, bitter at those whom he felt interfered with his organization. On a 1968 good-bye tour of Asia, his daughter Sharon reached him by phone. She asked if he could come home, but he refused, saying that he wanted to extend his trip to Vietnam.
His wife, Lorraine, started home immediately, but by the time she arrived, Sharon had tried to commit suicide. Later that year, she tried again and succeeded. By then Pierce was hospitalized in Switzerland. He would stay there for a year, treated with insulin and other drugs. The following year, he took over a small hunger organization that became Samaritan’s Purse. In 1970 he legally separated from his wife. His daughter Marilee wrote that his memory was “badly crippled” and his mind “frequently unclear.” Just
once, in September 1978, the family was able to gather for an evening of reconciliation. Four days later, Pierce died. (Tim Stafford, “Imperfect Instrument,” Christianity Today (March 2005) p. 56
Maybe “burn out” and “rust out” aren’t the only two choices one can make. So let’s put this together… we want to know, what’s love got to do with it?
You don’t have to possess eloquence to be called mature… You may a beginning Bible student… but you can love people.
You may not be first to think of a bold new advance for the kingdom… and not have as much to give as much as others do… but you can love people.
Maybe you haven’t “flamed out for the Lord”… but you can still love people… and be more mature than the best public speaker, greatest scholar and most respected philanthropist.