Willing to be Charitable?

C S Lewis in his book Mere Christianity writes about the danger of pride infecting our acts of charity. He suggests that we may be ‘… tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.’ Then, Lewis adds, the ‘help’ that others ‘really need’ may require more of us than just our money. This third of three brief posts on the theme of charity comes from C S Lewis…

“‘Charity’ now means simply what used to be called ‘alms’—that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning. (You can see how it got the modern sense. If a man has ‘charity’, giving to the poor is one of the most obvious things he does, and so people came to talk as if that were the whole of charity. In the same way, ‘rhyme’ is the most obvious thing about poetry, and so people come to mean by ‘poetry’ simply rhyme and nothing more.) Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’. But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.”

C S Lewis in Mere Christianity


The smallest good act…

Mere cover
Critics of Christianity rarely know what genuine Christians believe and practice. Mostly they criticize our un-Christian behavior (in which case they do us a service, if only we could see it) or perhaps their criticism is simply the first fruit of their own awakening conscience, if only they could see that. This second brief post on the theme of charity comes from C S Lewis.

“Though Christian charity sounds a very cold thing to people whose heads are full of sentimentality, and though it is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or ‘likings’ and the Christian has only ‘charity’. The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.

This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become – and so on in a vicious circle for ever.

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C S Lewis in Mere Christianity

Cold as charity?

Mere cover
Must our charitable actions that are unaccompanied by charitable feelings always be considered ‘cold’? And what about the truest charity of all, selfless love offered where love is unmerited at all? This first of three brief posts on the theme of charity comes from C S Lewis…

“Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love between human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God. About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’ He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

C S Lewis in Mere Christianity

Blessed and a blessing?

A controversial catch phrase once suggested that we Christians are ‘saved to serve‘. At its heart the controversy was whether we are saved only to serve, or even first to serve but  probably neither sense was intended anyway. It was all pretty much settled for me when I was reminded of Abraham who was blessed and made to be a blessing. This final brief post on the theme of church comes from Charles Spurgeon…

“I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing.” The object of God, in choosing a people before all worlds, was not only to save that people, but through them to confer essential benefits upon the whole human race. When he chose Abraham, he did not elect him simply to be God’s friend, and the recipient of peculiar privileges; but he chose him to make him, as it were, the conservator of truth. He was to be the ark in which the truth should be hidden. He was to be the keeper of the covenant in behalf of the whole world; and when God chooses any men by his sovereign, electing grace, and makes them Christ’s, he does it not only for their own sake, that they may be saved, but for the world’s sake. For, know ye not that “ye are the light of the world;”—”A city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid?” “Ye are the salt of the earth;” and when God makes you salt, it is not only that ye may have salt in yourselves, but that like salt ye may preserve the whole mass. If he makes you leaven, it is that, like the little leaven, you may leaven the whole lump. Salvation is not a selfish thing; God does not give it for us to keep to ourselves, but that we may thereby be made the means of blessing to others; and the great day shall declare that there is not a man living on the surface of the earth but has received a blessing in some way or other through God’s gift of the gospel. The very keeping of the wicked in life, and granting of the reprieve, was purchased with the death of Jesus; and through his sufferings and death, the temporal blessings which both we and they enjoy are bestowed on us. The gospel was sent that it might first bless those that embrace it, and then expand, so as to make them a blessing to the whole human race.”

Delivered on Sunday morning, June 3, 1855,
by the REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.