A few years ago, my family and I were just leaving a theater when I noticed two men approaching from the other direction. I paused from our musings about the movie we had just seen and looked at the men. A quick glance informed me that they were homeless.
Sometimes In the past I have kept small change in my pocket in case a less fortunate individual asked me for money. On this occasion I was reluctant to interrupt the moment with my children. I knew one of the men was about to ask for something, so I averted my eyes and steered my children around them. We were nearly past when one muttered something about “that Mormon family.”
The man’s response was not the one I had expected. I was guilty and it hurt. What bothered me most was not the fact that I had avoided him, but that there was such a difference between us that he and I had judged each other so accurately.
I have since had occasion to reflect on the teachings of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:3, which says, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
When I was growing up, I would occasionally hear someone say they had given something to charity. I heard this same phrase used only a couple weeks ago. In either case, “giving something to charity” didn’t imply much of a sacrifice. What it really meant was casting off something that was excess or not needed.
The prophet Mormon taught, “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever…. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love" which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (Moroni 7:47-48)
Truly following the Savior Jesus Christ means sacrifice. It means loving others unconditionally as Jesus loves them. Charity, which is his love – a purer love – has the power to change lives, and not just touch them.
When I do give more than my excess, a small miracle happens. Somehow I seem to have more, not less. I find that my heart is larger, not smaller. My capacity to love is greater and I truly become more like the Savior. Let’s face it, sacrifice is never convenient or it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. I know that God loves his children. I also know that he allows us to feel some of his love, when we share ours.
I wasn’t much of a good Samaritan that day after the movie. Fortunately, for me, there is still time to change.