TREVIN WAX | MARCH 19, 2020
In a time of tumult and uncertainty, as the COVID-19 pandemic affects not only our physical welfare but also our economy and our social interactions, our tendency is to turn inward, to the safety and wellbeing of those closest to us. We tend to our families.
Prudence and wisdom lead us to stock up on supplies, but fear and selfishness lead us to hoard the goods our neighbor may need.
As Christians, we should be known for giving, not hoarding. How can we display the generosity of Christ during a season of uncertainty?
One way is by remembering that the church body is, in a real sense, our family. The apostle Paul didn’t see the church primarily as a voluntary religious association, or a Bible club, or an audience of worship spectators. He saw the church as a family, and he saw the love we have for each other as similar to the love we have for family members.
Loving Like Family
Without a feeling of commitment to one another as brothers and sisters, as members of the same family—with the same God that we pray to as our Father, with the same older brother Jesus who gave his life for us, with the same Spirit who unites us in the bond of peace—we will never treat each other like brothers and sisters.
Jesus said that the world would know his disciples by how they loved each other. Not by their eloquence. Not by their titles. Not by the correctness of their teaching. Not by their general friendliness. By their love. Jesus believed their love would stand out so strongly that everyone would know they must be following Jesus.
In Romans 5:5, Paul wrote, “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We have God’s love in us. His love fills our heart and then flows out to others.
Loving with Our Actions
So how do we know if we’re loving our brothers and sisters? By our actions. And one of those actions is giving.
By giving, when everyone else is hoarding, we show the world we trust in God as our great provider.
When Paul said that the love of the Thessalonian church was evident in the entire region of Macedonia (1 Thess. 4:9-10), he meant that the people had been sharing their resources with one another. They’d been giving generously.
Giving is not just a warm feeling deep down in our hearts; it’s a generous withdrawal from our wallets and purses and bank accounts.
What are some ways we can be generous in a time of hoarding?
- Be generous with your attention. Be aware of the people at your church who might be struggling. Single moms or dads, widows and widowers, and people who live off the beaten path. Make contact to make sure they have their needs met.
- Be generous with your staples and supplies. If you have enough paper products, canned goods, and other supplies, don’t worry so much about the future that you can’t offer something to those in need—a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker.
- Be generous with benevolence funds at your local church, so if a need arises in the body, your church will have money to be given to those most affected.
- Be generous for the future. Every church should brace for the possibility that some in our fellowship will lose their jobs. How can we support and assist others in a time of hardship?
History of Loving Generously
Christians have been showing generosity like this for a long time. In the days of the ancient church, Justin Martyr wrote this:
We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it.
And John wrote something similar in 1 John 3:17-18:
If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or in speech, but in action and in truth.
What John is saying is this: If your heart does not move with compassion and generosity when you see your brother or sister in need, you ought to ask yourself if you’re really a member of the family. If you don’t care about your brother or sister, are you really a brother or sister? Does the love of God reside in someone who withholds compassion?
In his article “Love in the Time of the Coronavirus,” Andy Crouch writes:
Christians are called beyond ethical action to redemptive action, which is characterized by creative restoration through sacrifice. We and the organizations we lead have the chance to banish all exploitative practices, to go beyond merely ethical ones, and to make courageous, creative, sacrificial choices that restore what has been broken.
It matters that we share the love of God with the family of God courageously, creatively, and sacrificially. God’s love is poured into our hearts and then poured out through our lives in tangible expressions of generosity. We’re there for one another. We show compassion. And by this, the Scriptures say, the world sees our love and recognizes: There’s something powerful there. There’s something special and distinct about this group of people, who call themselves family, who give generously and love compassionately because of their Jesus.
Where can you and I show love to our brothers and sisters if we’re in “lockdown” of sorts in places like California, New York or Illinois? The telephone, and the digital world via Facetime, Google Hangout, Skype with family and friends would be one place to start as Trevin Wax mentions in his first bullet point. [Even simple texting or email can be a way to reach out.]
Ask questions, and apply listening skills can help, especially those who are isolated. Listening shows interest and caring. As we focus on the needs of others we receive, it’s reciprocal.