The spirit of giving

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Norman D. Ellis
  • 28th Bomb Wing chaplain
"And now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

This is how the apostle Paul ends the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthian church, as found in the Christian scriptures.

This is often referred to as the "love chapter" since the word charity is normally translated love in newer versions of that text, rather than charity as it's found in the older King James version of the Bible.

The Greek word for charity and love is "agape." It identifies the attribute of giving without looking for anything in return. Since our modern notion of love is often wrought with emotion and physicality, I prefer the word charity here.

"The greatest of these is charity," said Paul.

This principle is valid across many world religions and cultures. This is also the lesson of the character Ebenezer Scrooge, of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," ultimately learned: "It's better to give than receive."

We're entering a season many world religions and secular traditions share. Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule or New Year's (calendar and lunar), we see expressions of faith, hope and charity.

Faith is what we possess, hope is what we look forward to, but charity is what we give, and this is the season for giving. That is why we exchange gifts at this time of year, we drop coins into Salvation Army pots to help the less fortunate, we share ideas on how to make life better for others, we visit shut-ins, we serve meals at the rescue mission and we pack boxes to send to children of impoverished nations and to friends and loved ones serving in harm's way.

We even find ourselves a little more forgiving in traffic, a little more patient in line and a little more focused on others than upon ourselves.

This is good.

When I witness these things they make me smile. I'm optimistic that many will get it and continue to live it after the holidays.

Several years ago, Air Force leadership identified three core values -- Integrity, service, excellence -- values we subscribe to and live by. As I reflect on these values, I am absolutely convinced they were not values to be imposed upon Airmen but were values to be recognized as those of a noble character to which all should aspire.

The Air Force adopted these three values to aspire with service at the center. Again we see service as giving without looking for anything in return.

Incredible isn't it? Two thousand years ago Paul's observations concluded that the greatest attribute is to give. Two thousand years later, as proud servants in the world's greatest Air Force, we draw the same conclusion that service is the great act of giving without looking for anything in return.

This holiday season, many from our community are deployed; families are separated by service and sacrifice. Remember them as they give, remember the true meaning of charity as you give, remember the sacrifice of service as we all give. I hope the reader will learn, as did the Apostle Paul and Ebenezer Scrooge, that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

May you all have a blessed and wonderful holiday season.

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