We are not talking here about Christian philanthropy but rather about Christianity as philanthropy—that is, Christianity as the full flower of the philanthropic enterprise, initiated by the one true God in Jesus Christ and mirrored into the world by those who have partaken of the divine’s lavish friendship. The practice of Christianity in a way that is faithful to its philanthropic roots is philanthropy in full bloom.
To contend that all Christianity is philanthropy is not, of course, to contend that all philanthropy is Christianity. The robust practice of Christianity as philanthropy, however, can stand as a testament to philanthropists of all backgrounds that money can never become the seat of true philanthropy, that impact and effectiveness do not define philanthropy’s width and breadth, and that comprehensive friendship love and beneficent, direct relationship must ever remain the foundations of the discipline.
If that is true for philanthropy in general, how much more ought it to be true of Christianity-as-philanthropy in particular? The co-inherence of the two practices is the consistent witness of scripture, from verses like Jesus’ admonition, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8, NIV), and Paul’s command, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10, NASB). Jesus’ summary of the law—“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, NIV)—is the very essence of the Christianity-as-philanthropy which Paul unpacks in Titus 3.
(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, The Whole Life Offering: Christianity as Philanthropy, scheduled for release in January 2011.)