And above all these things put on charity,
Colossians is an epistle, or letter, written by Paul to the believers at Colossae, which is now modern-day Turkey. Even while in prison, Paul learned the believers in Colossae were beginning to slip into bad habits.
1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
The Old Life and the New
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 in the which ye also walked sometime, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scyth´i-an, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;
13 forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
What do you think of when you hear the word “charity?” Do you think of giving money? Does the word bring to mind the financially poor, the destitute who beg in old movies, novels, or on street corners?
Maybe you think of the enormous organization that collect money, purchase food or clothing, and distribute it across the globe. Or perhaps is a small shop just down the road that collects clothes and household items to give to people after a disaster of some sort.
The practice of charity, is the voluntary giving of help to those in need, as a humanitarian act, unmotivated by self interest. But, how many of us practice it that way?
How many of us think of our tax deductions when we make our donations? Have you ever, during your working life, requested a tax receipt for a donation to Goodwill, or Salvation Army? Was it an afterthought, or was it part of the plan?
Have you ever just donated to a program because you were pressured to? I know for me, back when I worked for the state at environmental health, they participated in a campaign for the United Way. EVERYONE was reminded that automatic withdrawals to the United Way were completely voluntary. No one was required to participate, but it sure would look good if we had 100% participation!
I had looked into some of the programs the United Way contributed to. For those who may not realize, they put, or used to I don’t know about now, everyone’s contributions in one big account and distributed it among a list of non-profit organizations. At that time they supported organizations that I felt did not share my values. I could not in good conscience mingle my hard earned money with those that would be supporting the opposing side, if you will.
Here, Paul is talking about motivation. The Colossians he was writing to had begun to follow the teachings of Christ. They had accepted Him as their savior, and had received Paul’s teachings on the way they should live.
Paul writes this letter from prison. He tells the Clossians that he had been told they are beginning to fall back into old habits. And they are creating new customs, or ordinances which are intended to make them feel superior, or better than the “non-believers” in their community. They are now in the habit of denying themselves certain food so they can say they are healthier than others. They were judging others on what they ate, they were judging others on how they observed holy days, the moon, and the Sabbath. They were even beginning to worship angels, falling into the belief that you had to go through someone else, before getting to Christ, who would plead for you to God.
These were old behaviors. These behaviors were what Paul called the “old man” verses the “new man” they became after receiving Christ.
He reminds them they are new creatures. Most of us recognize “… there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all.”
Then, in verse 14 Paul uses the word charity, as a synonym for love. He says, “Above all these things put on charity,” or put on love.
Christ told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He went on to explain that our neighbor was anyone we came across. Recall the parable of the Good Samaritan. Someone was hurt. The Samaritan helped. He probably did more than we would. I’m not sure I’d set up a booking at a Holiday Inn for someone I found beaten in the street. But, I would like to think I would do something.
Today we can dial 911. Most of us know enough basic first aid that we can help others. Modern medicine is so much better than in the first century. We can get a roll of gauze, some tape, and neosporin and do more healing than that Samaritan could.
But, are we doing these things with the correct motivation? Are we doing it from a sense of obligation – like in the United Way story – or because we love our fellow man?
Love your neighbor as yourself. Put on charity, put on love.
For the sake of being clear, we are not talking about the love you feel for your spouse. This is the unconditional love, like that Christ has for us. The love that makes us want to care for others, regardless and without judgement, or feeling obligation.
Paul says, “and above all things put on love.”
Loving others in this way does not mean we endorse them or their choices. Christ socialized with sinners, then gave them the choice to follow Him or not and moved on. When he came upon those in sin, like the Samaritan woman at the well, he told them to go and what?
Sin no more.
Later in the chapter, Paul goes into some detail reminding the Colossians how they are to live. How married couples are to treat each other. How parents and children are to treat each other. The underlying thread is love.
The Colossians had forgotten that. They fell prey to false teaching. Believing they could become better than other Christians by only eating certain things, being around certain people, putting other creatures between them and Christ (angels) in their worship.
Paul’s letter reminds us all that we have thrown off the “old man” and have put on a “new man.” Above all other things, we are to put on charity, or love, which is the bond of perfectness.