The Rarity of Charity

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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“…speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be… sound in… charity” (Titus 2:1,2).

To adorn the sound doctrine that they profess to believe, the Apostle Paul instructed Titus to tell aged men to be sound in charity.  To guide them in this, Paul gives a detailed description of charity in I Corinthians 13:4-7 that serves as a good guide for Christians of all ages.  Newer Bibles change “charity” to love here, but charity is love in action, and that’s the kind of charity that all Christians should seek to be sound in!  But Paul counsels aged men to be sound in charity because some of the descriptions he gave the Corinthians of charity are harder for aged men to exhibit.

For instance, he says that charity “suffereth long” (I Cor. 13:4).  Do you know any aged men who don’t suffer long with others, who get cranky when people vex them instead?  Paul says aged men should rather be sound in charity, and “kind” (v. 4) when people tax their longsuffering.

Charity also “envieth not” (I Cor. 13:4).  People of all ages are envious, but envy hurts more as you get older.  You see, if you spend your life envying the things possessed by others, and not getting them, by the time you get old you realize you’re probably never going to get them.  No wonder Paul tells aged men they should be sound in charity instead of being envious.

Paul also says charity “is not puffed up” (I Cor. 13:4).  That’s a reference to pride caused by too much knowledge (I Cor. 8;1).  And who has more knowledge than aged men?  If you don’t believe that, just ask one!  But I’ve known older Christian men who were puffed up by their knowledge of the Bible, and that’s not very becoming to sound doctrine.

Charity also doesn’t “behave itself unseemly” (I Cor. 13:5), a word that means inappropriately, or even indecently.  The only other time the Bible uses this term is to describe homosexuality (Rom. 1:27).  But homosexuality isn’t the only way to behave unseemly.  You’ve probably heard the term “dirty old man.”  That’s an old man who acts inappropriately toward women.

A few years ago, one of our former presidents was accused of acting unseemly, touching women inappropriately while taking photographs with them.  If those accusations were true, he perhaps thought it was innocent because he was so elderly.  But that is not a fitting way for a former president to act, and it is surely no way for an aged Christian man to act.  Aged men should be sound in charity instead, and charity “doth not behave itself unseemly.”

Paul also wrote that charity “believeth all things” (I Cor. 13:7). That means when something happens that makes you question the integrity of a brother in Christ, don’t be so quick to believe something bad about him.  Believe “all things” good about him until you get all the facts.

A man who used to attend the church that I pastor once said to me, “Maybe you’ve noticed that I never put anything in the offering box.  That’s because I’m getting over a gambling addiction and I’m paying off all my old gambling debts.”  I told him I didn’t make a habit of watching to see who visits our offering box, but even if I noticed that he didn’t, I wouldn’t assume he was unspiritual.  I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and believe the best about him.

Now that gets harder as we get older and more cynical.  The longer you live, the more you see the bad side of people, so you tend to believe the worst about them.  One of my assistant pastors is a former Chicago police lieutenant, and he says it is harder for some policemen to think the best of people, for they spend their lives seeing people at their absolute worst.  Because of that, they end up getting cynical about people at a much younger age than the rest of us.  But if aged men want to be sound in charity, they have to be willing to believe the best of others.

If we could all live that way, maybe the rarity of charity would become a thing of the past!

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