Pope Francis said “Christian charity is not simple philanthropy” but “looking at others through the eyes of Jesus himself” and “seeing Jesus in the face of the poor.” What are sacrifices that please God?
It’s a common theme we see in television shows and movies. A busy parent, (usually a dad), who makes lots of money, tries to make up for their absentee status by giving gifts or actual money in an attempt to fill the void of personal involvement or love.
Some people give to receive status for their generosity, a social marker that says “I’m a good person.” Others do it for attention their philanthropy brings them. But Jesus warned about such false charity.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
If you have an abundance of something, to the degree that giving it away has little or no effect on you, it may not be all that charitable.
When you have to make sacrifices to be charitable or to put fourth significant effort, you are also giving of yourself for others. If you have a lot of money or goods and it’s effortless for you to be philanthropic – is that really being charitable? The Pope doesn’t think so. Jesus also spoke about such instances.
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'”
That’s an example of a true sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke out about charity versus philanthropy when he gave his Angelus address speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
“Christian charity is not simple philanthropy,” Pope Francis said. “But, on the one hand, it is looking at others through the eyes of Jesus Himself and, on the other hand, seeing Jesus in the face of the poor.”
“This is the true path of Christian charity, with Jesus at the center, always,” the Pope continued. “May Mary Most Holy, blessed because she believed, be our guide and model on the path of faith in Christ, and make us aware that trust in Him gives full meaning to our charity and to all our existence.”
Charity for the sake of “good-deed-doing” is admirable, but it’s not the same as Christian charity.
“Charity is always the high road of the journey of faith, of the perfection of faith,” Pope Francis said in his address. “But it is necessary that works of solidarity, the works of charity that we carry out, not divert us from contact with the Lord Jesus.”
In other words, while our charity should be done with the intention of helping the poor, assisting crises and uplifting our communities, it should also advance the will of God and help support and bolster faith in Jesus Christ. In our charity, we also need to be ambassadors and living examples of Christ.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God”
– Romans 12:1-2