“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
We are in a world where hearts need human sympathy; and God has given us benevolence, that we may realize this need, and be kind and charitable to all with whom we come in contact. We often see a charitable disposition manifested by men and women who have never given their hearts to Christ, and it is a sad sight indeed when His professed followers lack this great essential of Christianity. They do not copy the Pattern; and it is impossible for them to reflect the image of Jesus in their lives and deportment.
Love is one of the fruits of true piety. Those who truly carry out the principles of the law of God in their daily lives will realize that suffering humanity has claims upon them. They will not only love God supremely, but their neighbor as themselves. Jesus illustrated this principle in the parable which He told to a certain lawyer who “stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him by asking another question: “What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he 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 neighbor as thyself. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right. This do, and thou shalt live” [Luke 10:25–28].
“This do,” said Jesus, not merely believe, but do, “and thou shalt live.” It is carrying out the principles of God’s law and not merely a professed faith in its binding claims, that makes the Christian.
But the lawyer, “willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?” [Verse 29.] Jesus illustrates the spirit of cheerful benevolence which should be exercised toward all—friends, neighbors, and strangers—in the story that follows: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” [verse 30]. A priest and a Levite who came that way, and saw his need of help, passed by on the other side. Notwithstanding their exalted professions of piety, their hearts were not stirred with pitying tenderness for the sufferer. A Samaritan, who made no such lofty pretensions to righteousness, came to the place. He saw in the unfortunate stranger a human being in distress, and his compassion was excited. He immediately “went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him” [verse 34]. And on the morrow he left the wounded man in the care of his host, with the assurance that on his return he would pay all charges.
Christ asks, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go and do thou likewise” [verses 36, 37]. Here is a lesson on the duties of man with reference to his fellow-man. Those who neglect to carry out the principles illustrated by this lesson, are not commandment-keepers, though they may pretend to revere the law of God.
Human sympathy, sanctified by the spirit of Jesus, is an element that can be productive of great good. Those who cultivate benevolence are not only doing good to others, but they are benefiting themselves by opening their hearts to the benign influences of sympathy and love. Every ray of light shed upon others will be reflected upon our own hearts. Every kind and sympathizing word spoken to the sorrowful, every act to relieve the oppressed, and every gift to supply the necessities of the destitute, given or done with an eye single to God’s glory, will result in blessings to the giver. Those who are thus working are obeying a law of Heaven, and will receive the approval of God.
In the parable, Christ exalts the Samaritan above the priest and the Levite, who were great sticklers for the letter of the law in the ten commandments. The one obeyed the spirit of these commandments, while the other was content to express an exalted faith in them. But the apostle tells us that “faith without works is dead” [James 2:20].
When the advocates of the law of God plant their feet firmly on its principles, showing that they are loyal, not merely in name, but at heart also, carrying out in their lives the spirit of the law of God, and exercising true benevolence to man, then will they have moral power to move the world. But it is impossible for those who profess allegiance to God to correctly represent the principles of His law, while slighting the injunction to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We are under obligation, not only to secure heaven ourselves, but to show others the way, and, through our care and disinterested love, to lead toward Christ those who come within the sphere of our influence. We are accountable, to a great degree, for the souls of those around us. Our words and deeds are constantly telling for or against the truth of God; and we are under personal obligation to exert an influence in its favor. The most eloquent sermon that can be preached upon the law of ten commandments is to do them. Obedience should be made a personal duty. Negligence here is flagrant sin.
Let the world see that we are not selfishly narrowed up to our own exclusive interests and our religious joys, but that we desire them to share our blessings and privileges, through the sanctifying influence of the truth; let them see that the religion which we profess does not close up or freeze up the avenues to the soul, making us unsympathizing and exacting; let all who profess to have found Christ, minister, as He did, to the needs of man, cherishing a spirit of wise benevolence; and we shall then see many souls following the light that shines from our precept and example.
We should cultivate an amiable disposition, and subject ourselves to the control of conscience. The truth of God makes better men and women of those who receive it in the love of it. It works like leaven till the entire being is brought into conformity to its principles. It opens the heart that has been frozen by avarice; it opens the hand that has been closed to human suffering; and kindness and charity are seen as its fruits.
Let us not bring a reproach upon the Christian religion by manifesting jealousy and intolerance toward others. No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure or reproach; but many have thus been driven away from God, with their hearts steeled against conviction. A tender spirit, a gentle, winning deportment, may save the erring, and hide a multitude of sins. We are required of God to exercise that charity that suffereth long and is kind.
The religion of Christ does not require us to lose our identity of character, but merely to adapt ourselves, in some measure, to the feelings and ways of others. Many people may be brought together in a unity of religious faith, whose opinions, habits, and tastes in temporal matters are not in harmony. But with the love of Christ glowing in their bosoms, looking forward to the same heaven as their eternal home, they may have the sweetest and most intelligent communion together, and a unity the most wonderful.
None should feel at liberty to preserve a cold and chilling reserve and iron dignity—a spirit that repels those who are brought within its influence. This spirit is contagious; it creates an atmosphere that withers good impulses and good resolves; under its influence persons become constrained, and the natural current of human sympathy, cordiality, and love is choked. The gloom and chill of this unsocial atmosphere is reflected in the countenance; and not only is the spiritual health affected by this unnatural depression, but the physical health is affected also.
There are scarcely two whose experiences are alike in every particular. The trials of one may not be the trials of another; and our hearts should ever be open to kindly sympathy, and aglow with the divine love that Jesus manifested for all his brethren.
The Bible Echo, December 1, 1886.