Could You Show Love in a Finer Way?
OF ALL the qualities that we might cultivate, “the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) The kind of love the apostle Paul was here speaking about was not éros, a love based on sex attraction and from which we get the word “erotic”; nor was it storgé, the love that is based on family relationship; neither was it philía, the love that is based on similarity of personal likes and dislikes. Rather, the Greek word that the apostle here used was agápe, the positive love that is based on principle and is wholly outgoing.
Among the ways we can show love is by giving things of material nature or value. That in itself is good, but may there be a finer way? A well-beloved Bible student of years ago is reported to have observed: ‘If we can choose between giving more money to the Lord’s work or giving more of our time and energy, the wiser course would be to choose to do the latter—give more of our time and energies.’ Why? Because this might well result in more honor and praise going to God and in more happiness to oneself.
By and large, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah appreciate this principle. A few years back, a Pittsburgh newspaper headline stated: “Jehovah’s Witnesses Donate Labor to Build Assembly Hall Near Airport.” The article contained a large picture of this work being carried on and told that literally thousands had volunteered their help and that at times more came to help than could actually be used. Reading this report, a Protestant church deacon was moved to complain about the poor response he was getting to a call for help for a certain project of which he had the oversight: “Think of the vast number of Protestant churches and all the allied groups involved in the project . . . [yet] it’s hard for me to get six men out at any one time to give a day of free labor to develop a project.” Evidently, these many churchgoers felt it was easier to contribute their money than to give of themselves, to give of their time and energies.
However, candor, such as is manifested by God’s penmen, the inspired Bible writers, would require noting that those professing to be fully dedicated servants of Jehovah God may be also at times a little amiss in this respect. For example, in connection with the construction of a recently built Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall, the one in charge of the construction stated that the way the brothers responded with monetary contributions was nothing short of a miracle; though the hall would cost close to a million dollars, it would practically be paid for by the time the building was completed. However, when it came to giving support to this building project in the way of personal time and effort, that same appreciation seemed to be lacking.
What was the problem? Evidently many felt that their generous monetary contributions sufficed. True, making generous contributions was a very good thing. But of itself, the monetary giving did not relieve them from helping out with time and energy if they were able to do so. Jesus Christ might be said to have made this point when he told a certain rich young ruler not only to sell his belongings and give the proceeds to the poor but then to follow him.—Luke 18:18-23.
This same principle applies to all aspects of Christian service. In fact, would it not be finer for a person to devote all his time and energies to God’s service if able to do so? It may be more convenient to drop money into the contribution box at the Kingdom Hall than to show up for cleaning the Kingdom Hall and caring for the grounds surrounding it when one is responsible for doing so. But might not the latter show more love? It may be easier to contribute money to the printing of Bibles and Bible literature than to devote time taking this printed material to the homes of the people, preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and endeavoring to make disciples. But again, is not the latter a finer way to show love, and is it not what Jesus prophesied and commanded that his followers do? It is, even as can be seen from Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19, 20.
Within the family circle this principle also applies. For a husband to spend money on his wife is commendable. But does not his showing love by giving her his time, attention and interest show more love? In fact, he may be very generous when it comes to money and yet not even truly love his wife. Thus there was once a politically prominent lawyer who provided very generously for his wife in a material way. But one day she was shocked to learn that he was keeping another woman on the side. So the giving of material things may not even be an expression of genuine love. Depending upon circumstances, husbands may be able to provide more or less in a material way; but when it comes to the “surpassing way,” rich and poor alike have much the same opportunities.—1 Cor. 12:31–13:13.
The situation is similar when it comes to parents’ showing love for their children. Some parents, because of having had little of this world’s goods when they were children, resolve that their children shall have an abundance of good things, fine clothes, toys, means for hobbies and what not. But if they let it go at that, they are very unwise. Far more important is it that they give of themselves, of their time, interest and energies, to their children. This really may cost more in the way of self-sacrifice, but such a course is also more rewarding. In other words, do not let the TV or a baby-sitter substitute for you except in emergencies, or on other rare occasions; not so that the parents can frequent some nightclub!
So let us ever bear in mind that the finer way for us to show love is to give of ourselves, our time, our energies, our interest, our attention, our affection. Giving things of a material value to God’s work or to those we love is a good thing, for such are necessary; but we never want to content ourselves with such giving if we can also give of the more valuable things. And should we have the opportunity to choose between the two, let us show the finer love as well as the greater wisdom by giving of ourselves, imparting even “our own souls.” That is what the apostle Paul did, and how richly God blessed him for it!—1 Thess. 1:6-10; 2:8.