Charity – What is the pure love of Christ?
The Modern America holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are the times that most people think of charity. Most people think of charity as giving money, time, or other resources to those which lack the necessities of life. Charity is typically done in a spontaneous way, an act of goodwill and generosity.
However, this concept of charity is incomplete and lacks the true nature and attributes of charity. The Hebrew word Tzedakah [tsedaˈka] (צדקה), is the Hebrew word for charity; the Hebrew word Tzedakah [tsedaˈka] (צדקה) is also the word for justice or righteousness. The root word is (צדק) Tzedek meaning righteousness, justice, or morality.
When we apply Modern American concepts to a scriptural word such as charity we not only end up an incomplete view and understanding, we also end up twisting the scriptures to our detriment
Mormons often quote Moroni chapter 7 when defining charity. The problem is we are defining the word based upon the definition of Modern American Culture. As a result of this misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, we end up accepting all manner of sin and injustice in the name of “charity”. A type of charity which is very foreign to scripture and to God.
If we truly desire to have charity we must first understand what it means. The basic definition was provided previously. To further explain what is meant by justice or righteousness, and thus charity, we must understand these words are provided in a context where the justice and righteousness is based upon God’s standard and laws, not our own or by Modern American Culture. As stated, charity means having a love for God so we enact justice and righteousness based upon His law and commandments; we enact God’s justice, God’s righteousness, we act as God would act. Does God love His children, yes, He does; but He will also enact justice upon them when they are disobedient.
We should not act based upon our emotions. Only acting upon emotions, disregarding God’s commandments, is not charity and any people who believes any such actions are charity are deceiving themselves.
We cannot come to a better understanding of charity without an understanding of righteousness and justice. What are righteousness and justice?
As stated, the Hebrew word for righteousness is Tzedakah [tsedaˈka] (in addition charity and justice). Righteousness means to walk a certain path, a way of living. Psalms 1 describes righteousness for us.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalms 1:1-6, KJV)
The Hebrew word for way or road is derek. Walking a road is a way of living. God does not walk in crooked paths, nor does God vary in what He has said.
“I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.” (Alma 7:20)
If we seek to define righteousness based upon our own law, our emotions, or any other way we will find ourselves walking in crooked paths, calling good evil and evil good. We will find ourselves outside the Kingdom of God. What road are you walking?
What is righteousness? Righteousness is accepting the Word, walking the way, the strait, the road which God has placed before us that leads to life.
“And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:18–21)
As previously stated, the Hebrew word Tzedakah is the word for justice (in addition to charity and righteousness). What most people may not realize is that enacting justice is charity and that justice cannot exist without law.
Most modern people typically think of criminal acts when thinking of justice, and justice is enacting a penalty for a broken law. Justice certainly does encompass the bringing of penalties to the guilty through righteous judgment. Enacting justice means to enact righteousness based upon God’s law. God’s law encompasses addressing the needs of the widows, orphans, and the poor; but God’s law also addresses the rich stealing from the poor, paying a livable wage, and not oppressing the employee in his wages.
We have many corporations and organizations in the United States that exploit people. The exploitation comes in various forms, such as offshoring, hiring of non-citizens and then threatening those non-citizens with deportation if complete compliance and submission is not given, requiring citizens to pay for services for non-citizens through taxation, and corporations lying to the U.S. Congress. All of these things are not acts of justice and are forms of stealing. The management of these corporations that exploit people and then give to organizations such as the United Way or various food banks are not performing such acts because the management is benevolent nor charitable. People believing that corporations giving money to various charities are done for public image and tax write-offs. Doing something only for a tax write-off or public image is not charitable action and is denying justice the U.S. citizen and the non-citizen.
Pandering to emotion is not enacting justice. Emotions can be fleeting and are of a sensual nature, which takes us away from God.
“Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death. Therefore, as they [mankind] had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state. And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience; Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:9–13, Italics Added.)
What is justice? Justice is enacting God’s righteousness. Read Isaiah 58.
The ancients knew that charity was a love for God, God’s laws, God’s justice, and God’s righteousness. People who followed idols or other gods would enact the laws of those god’s, if any, and any correlating “justice”. Likewise, people in our day that refuse to acknowledge God’s laws are not going to enact justice and righteousness.
We cannot understand charity without understanding the pure love of Christ. Let us read Moroni 7.
Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart. If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity [God’s justice and righteousness]; for if he have not charity [God’s justice and righteousness] he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity [God’s justice and righteousness]. And charity [God’s justice and righteousness] suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity [God’s justice and righteousness], ye are nothing, for charity [God’s justice and righteousness] never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity [God’s justice and righteousness], which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail— But charity [God’s justice and righteousness] is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love [love for God, God’s justice and righteousness], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:42–48)
Nephi also provides additional clarification about the nature of charity.
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity [love for God, God’s justice and righteousness], which charity is love [love for God and His commandments, and by extension God’s justice and righteousness]. And except they should have charity [love for God and His commandments, and by extension God’s justice and righteousness] they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish. But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish. (2 Nephi 26:29–31)
Notice how Nephi states that anyone who has charity will be concerned for his fellow man, “if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.” People that engage in priestcraft have no love for God, His laws, His justice, or His righteousness. If we truly have charity, we will enact and give what we can to help those in need all year round. We will not oppress people by defrauding people of livable wages. We will not seek to place the burden of caring for the foreigner on other people while requiring nothing of the foreigner. We will not engage in bearing false witness, adulterous, secret combinations, or any forms of idolatry, which are many. We will not let the guilty go free because of money or because someone appeals to our emotions.
Alma shows the righteousness and justice of God in chapter 34.
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you. And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith. Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable [have no love for God, His commandments, His justice, and His righteousness], ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men. (Alma 34:27–29)
Ether also provided additional information about charity.
And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men. And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father. Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly. And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. (Ether 12:33–37)
Do you love God? Do you love the being you claim to be your king? When you will keep His commandments, you will seek His justice, you will seek his righteousness, you will seek His goodness (what God defines as good, not what Modern American Culture defines as good). Without seeking for these things, we have no hope of being reconciled unto Christ.
I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell. I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat. I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came. I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation. And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good [what God defines as good, not what Modern American Culture defines as good). (2 Nephi 33:6–10)
The Messiah loved his Father. The Messiah stated he came here to do the will of his father. For the Son, the Messiah to do the will of the Father is an act of love.
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38, KJV)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, KJV)
“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24, KJV)
Introducing a new law, a new way, would not be an act of love toward any of the peoples of the earth. The Messiah did not give a new law and reiterated the law as already given by Moses, giving a different law would be an act of injustice.
We cannot have charity, the pure love of Christ without loving him and our Father in Heaven. We must seek the glory of God first. If we truly love God and his Son, we will do as the Messiah directed and we will seek God’s glory before our own. We will enact justice and righteousness because we love our King, we love our Messiah, we love our Father in Heaven, and thus, our fellow man.
Or is going to church for an emotional experience enough for you? If so, emotional experiences is all you will have and the Heavens will withdraw themselves and the precious jewels of the gospel, the pearls, will be hidden from your view.