Christian Charity and Unnecessary Criticism

The Greek word we Christians use for love among the faithful is “karitas.” From it we derive the English word “charity.” Charity is not just giving to the poor and needy – it is the love of Christ expressed in this world. We are called to have this love – this charity – toward not just those who are suffering while we are well, but toward every other being on earth as created by God.

It’s a huge responsibility.

In the old monasteries, this kind of humility before God’s Creation was expressed in nonjudgment of one’s brothers (or sisters.) While discipline is kept by the abbot or abbess, or the bishop or elder, those who are co-equal under Christ must refrain from criticism and judgment. There was a simple admonition to the critical, derived from the long periods of fasting and abstention:

Keep your eyes on your own plate.

Criticism will lead to hubris – “I am doing so much better than this other one” – and even gluttony and envy – “I could use what you have wasted!”

Walk your own path; work out your own salvation; don’t carry what others have already put down.

There’s another old monastic story. Two monks, sworn to chastity and celibacy, who would not even lift their eyes to look at a woman’s face, are on a long journey from one monastery to another. Winter is close by, they need to hurry. On a deserted path to a village, they find a young woman, her feet too injured by frostbite to support her. One monk, without hesitation, takes the woman in his arms and carries her into the next village, leaving her with the priest for care and medical treatment. The other monk, who has not helped at all in the girl’s rescue, begins to chide his brother for breaking the vows, and not only helping the woman but carrying her in an intimate manner. The monks walk on, the one scolding the other. Finally, after an hour or so of this, the charitable monk says to his partner, “I put that woman down miles ago! Why are you still carrying her?”

Charity is the best part of faith. Be charitable to one another.

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7 thoughts on “Christian Charity and Unnecessary Criticism

  1. I was once told that if you do some act of selflessness for someone else, and more than 2 people know about it, you did it for yourself and not for someone else.

    • Yes, I agree. I once told a co-worker, when she asked what I had done over the weekend, that I had spent the day with a friend’s very elderly grandmother. She praised me and flattered me over my unselfishnessness, to the point that I was embarrassed. I had meant what an interesting time I had, but she took it it to be some act of charity. I never again told her about my Christian works, because it was embarrassing to be made so much of. And then I’ve known a woman who rather stridently insisted that a donation plaque needed to be affixed to the used television and VCR that she had donated to the church Sunday School room. Where was her reward?

  2. I just want to bring up something, though. I don’t have much time to think of great examples right this minute, so I hope I make sense. I have read many stories of how the Lord worked in people’s lives in tragic and horrible situations and no matter how much the author may have not wanted attention for what they did, they did have to get it in order to give the testimonies. Like Corrie Ten Boom and other christians we have read about who inspire us and help us to see we all can make a difference. I am thinking of that story, again, where Corrie has to extend the hand of forgiveness to the SS officer who was so horrible to her sister who died. Corrie’s testimony was for us to see how God can help us do the undoable, but theoretically she could be seen as sharing something she “did” ( practicing an incredible faith and obedience here) and perhaps wanting people to see her works. I don’t believe that was her intent at all, but there have been books and talks by people who might not have the correct intention. Know what I mean?
    Joanie

    • Yes, I know. Sometimes the Lord will bring someone forward to be an example to the rest of us. These people usually have to be encouraged to speak up, though; they have a special leading to do so, and test it against what others think. They aren’t publicity seeking, and often feel that they would have said nothing except that God brought them forward to speak. Ive been accused of tooting my own horn here, but again, I feel called to witness and help others in my own small way. I’m no Corrie ten Boom or Mother Teresa! And I fight the sin of priests daily – envy. (We tend to be smug show-offs, little know-it-alls.)

  3. I also have to add that it seems that the Lord has used me at times to demonstrate to people how the Lord can empower us to do things. I dont write books or give talks – it just happens in our fellowship group which is primarily a ministry, it seems these days. When someone is down I tell them of how the Lord gave me the strength to do something I know I could not have done without His power. When you have a very worldly, troubled, and even tragic past it tends to come up and people want to know how we overcame. We have to be very careful in how we respond – knowing where to draw that line between encouraging others in their battles and going so far that we highlight our part in it all. I feel this is an important ministry and I know I relate best to people giving examples that I can apply in my own life.
    Joanie

    • We are called to give our witness in and out of season, to speak for the Lord as Stephen did. Let the Holy Spirit guide thee. I’m sure thee is sensible and kind in thy witness!

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