December 8, 2020

There is a Balance Between Christian Charity and Personal Responsibility

"I resign my soul into the hands of the Almighty Who gave it, in humble hopes of His mercy through our Savior Jesus Christ."[1]
Daily Reading : GALATIANS 4 - 6
TEXT : Galatians  6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  6:4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  6:5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
Galatians 4 
The apostle shows that, as an heir in nonage is under tutors and guardians, so were the Galatians while under the law; and, as the heir when he comes of age is no longer under guardians, so they, when the Gospel came, arrived at full maturity, and were redeemed from the law, Gal_4:1-3. He shows, farther, that when the fullness of the time came God sent forth his Son, that we might obtain the adoption of sons, and have the strongest evidence of that adoption, Gal_4:4-6. Those who are children of God are heirs of heaven, Gal_4:7. He compares their former and latter state, and shows the reason he had to fear that his labor on their behalf was in vain, Gal_4:8-11. He mentions his trials among them, and their kindness to him, Gal_4:12-16. Shows his tender affection for them, and exhorts them to return to the Gospel, Gal_4:17-20. Shows the excellence of the Gospel beyond that of the law, by the allegory of Mount Sinai and Jerusalem, Gal_4:21-27. Shows also that the believing Gentiles are children of the promise, as Isaac was; and have been elected in the place of the Jews, who have been cast out according to the Scriptures, Gal_4:28-31.  (Adam Clarke)[2]
Galatians 5 
The apostle exhorts the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty of the Gospel, and not by receiving circumcision bring themselves into a yoke of bondage, Gal_5:1-4. Shows the superior excellence of Christianity, Gal_5:5, Gal_5:6. Mentions their former steadiness, and warns them against the bad doctrine which was then preached among them, Gal_5:7-9. Expresses his confidence that they will yet return; and shows that he who perverted them shall bear his own punishment, Gal_5:10-12. States that they are called to liberty, and that love is the fulfilling of the law, Gal_5:13, Gal_5:14. Warns them against dissensions, and enumerates the fruits of the flesh, which exclude those who bear them from the kingdom of God, Gal_5:15-21. Enumerates also the fruits of the Spirit, which characterize the disciples of Christ, Gal_5:22-24. Exhorts them to live in the Spirit, and not provoke each other, Gal_5:25, Gal_5:26.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
Galatians 6 
The apostle teaches them to be tender and affectionate towards any who, through surprise and the violence of temptation, had fallen into sin; and to bear each other's burdens, Gal_6:1, Gal_6:2. To think humbly of themselves, and to conclude concerning their own character rather from the evidence of their works than from any thing else, Gal_6:3-5. To minister to the support of those who instruct them in righteousness, Gal_6:6. He warns them against self-deception, because whatever a man soweth that he shall reap, Gal_6:7, Gal_6:8. Exhorts them not to be weary in well doing, and to embrace every opportunity to do good, Gal_6:9, Gal_6:10. Intimates that his love to them led him to write this whole epistle with his own hand, Gal_6:11. Points out the object that those had in view who wished them to be circumcised, Gal_6:12, Gal_6:13. He exults in the cross of Christ, and asserts that a new creation of the soul is essential to its salvation; and wishes peace to them who act on this plan, Gal_6:14-16. States that he bears in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, Gal_6:17. And concludes with his apostolical benediction, Gal_6:18.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
There is a delicate balance between charity and personal responsibility.  At times, it may be hard to judge what the right thing to do is.  You know as a Christian that love is the supreme good.  However, love must always be appropriate to the situation.  In other words, love sometimes gives and at other times refrains from giving.
For instance, Henry Drummond, in his famous sermon "The Greatest Thing in the World," which is an exposition of 1st Corinthians chapter 13, said - "Charity is only a little bit of Love, one of the innumerable avenues of Love, and there may even be, and there is, a great deal of charity without Love. It is a very easy thing to toss a copper to a beggar on the street; it is generally an easier thing than not to do it. Yet Love is just as often in the withholding. We purchase relief from the sympathetic feelings roused by the spectacle of misery, at the copper's cost. It is too cheap--too cheap for us, and often too dear for the beggar. If we really loved him we would either do more for him, or less."[5]
In this statement of Henry Drummond there is profound truth.  Do more or do less.  That can be a hard decision.  Should I do more or less?  This is the dilemma of love.  True love, that is, the love of God, always does what is right.  Therefore, doing what is right (which is actually true love in action) is the outworking of love.  Yet, once again, knowing what to do can be a dilemma.  Should you do more or less?  This is the difference between charity and personal responsibility.  The Bible speaks of both.
Many of us are aware that we live in an enabling society.  Irresponsible and sometimes (even) criminal behavior is enabled in the name of love.  Yet, no one in their right mind would consciously endorse what is wrong, evil, or bad.  Certainly, no one dedicated to the LORD Jesus Christ would do so willingly or wittingly.  On this point, you should know that God never endorses or enables sin or the breaking of any of his immutable principles.  For example, in the book of Proverbs it speaks much of fools and other unwise individuals.  In one case, you are told not to make any friendship with an angry "man." The reason is as the Bible states; you will learn his ways and become angry as he is.  Further, in the book of Hebrews the Word of God tells us that a root of bitterness in one individual will eventually spread to many individuals.  The Elders of the Church are to judge this type of spirit and resolve it or remove it.  These are hard decisions.  Yet, in the end, all of them are done because of love.
In the text of Galatians chapter six, you can easily get confused if you do not understand that there is a difference between charity and personal responsibility.  In chapter 6:2, you are taught to - "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Then, in chapter 6: 5 you are told everyone will bear their own burden.  What does this mean?  Simply put, are there are times and instances that Christians are obligated by the law of love to help fellow believers.  This can take many forms.  It can be financial help, or physical help, or simply listening and giving consolation or advice.  However, there are many instances - in reality, they are the majority of occasions, when everyone is personally responsible for their own lives.  This includes - thoughts, words, deeds, and behavior.  It also includes going to work and having a job to support yourself and, or, your family. 
On this last point, it is the reason the Apostle Paul would state that - "if any man does not work he should not eat." [6] In addition, the Apostle Paul tells us that if any man does not work and provide for his family he is worse than a non-Christian!  He is worse.  Further, the Apostle Paul emphatically states that if a man does not provide for his own house - he has "denied the faith!"[7]  These are strong statements.  However, please note these statements are made by the same man who wrote first Corinthians chapter 13.  Therefore, the dilemma of when to demonstrate charity and when to refrain becomes dependent on knowing the Word of God.
Give too much to an irresponsible individual and you do not love that man or woman as God does.  God refuses to endorse or enable sinful, slothful, and unscriptural behavior.  Thus, he expects the same of you.  On the other hand, there are certain cases in life where to show charity in the form of giving is self-evident or common sense.  Yet, you must discern the difference between someone who has not, or is in need because of their disobedience to the principles of Scripture, and the person whose ability to obtain what is necessary for life is hindered by obstructions and difficulties they are not in control of.
As already stated, there is a problem today with enabling bad or irresponsible behavior.  In the end, what passes for charity is in actuality the inability to refrain from giving when holding back would be best for the person in question.  As the old adage goes - "give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime." A Christian by the very nature of the name (a Christian is a "Christ follower" or a "disciplined one") is responsible for their own life before God.  Yet, as we all know, there are times in seasons when we need the aid of the brothers and sisters.  That need takes many forms.  Still, in the final analysis, you are responsible for your own life.  I am responsible for mine.  This is the design and command of God. Therefore, there is a balance between charity and personal responsibility.

  • [1] From his last will and testament, attested on September 21, 1840
  • [2] Adam Clarke LL.D., F.S.A. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Public Domain, 1715 - 1832.
  • [3] Ibid
  • [4] Ibid
  • [5] Drummond, Henry "The Greatest Thing In The World," Cornerstone Books,  1880,
  • [6] 2Th_3:10  For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
  • [7] 1Ti_5:8  But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
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