Of possessions and need

Scripture

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18

Observation

  • “If anyone has material possessions”, the author makes no exclusions in this message since everyone has some sort of material possession (v17)
  • “sees his brother in need but has no pity on him”, here brother is better translated as “fellow Christian” (NET) as a general term for any genuine Christian who is in the community (v17)
    • The use of the word “pity” isn’t quite correct, I find other translations more helpful – “closes his heart” (ESV) or “shuts off his compassion” (NET); that paints a much stronger picture of what goes on in our hearts, it is an intentional deadening of our compassion
  • “how can the love of God be in him?”, an obviously rhetorical question to which the answer is clear to the author – the love of God simply cannot be in such a person (v17)
  • “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” an exaltation for all his disciples whom he calls “children” (v18)
    • “actions” or “deeds” (ESV/NET) gives the idea of actual work; the direct opposite of not working or simply speaking
    • “in truth” seems like a strange thing to say here, but if you connect the sentence together, it makes sense to “love… in truth”; the author exalts us to love with a genuine love (Romans 12:9)

The implications here are extremely strong. John says that the love of God cannot be in a person who does not love with his actions by sharing / giving of his own material possession to a fellow Christian who has a need. Such a person is described in v15 as a “murderer” who “hates his brother” and has “no… eternal life in him.” That makes it absolutely impossible for us to receive the love of God and not give of ourselves to love others. Love that doesn’t move a person to action is not genuine love at all, it is non-committal, false, superficial love.

In context, the author says that if God has loved you to the extent of giving His own life, you should also give your own life to others. This is done practically by filling a fellow Christian’s lack with your much. It is impossible for a person who has the love of God to not do so. It requires an intentional shutting off of our heart to do so.

Application

My father always told me “talk is cheap”. This is exactly what my father meant. Love that does not act on a fellow Christian’s need it is not love at all.

Prayer

Father, give me a heart like yours. Let me look at how you gave and how much you gave and follow your lead. I admit that it is easy to cling on to possessions, help me to hold on tightly to you and loosely to the blessings you abundantly pour on us.

Amen.

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