What is the end, purpose, or goal of Christianity-as-philanthropy?
Paul explicates this in Romans 12:1-2 (NIV):
1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this passage Paul makes clear that the end of Christianity-as-philanthropy is not the giving of gifts but rather the Christian’s offering of the whole self to God with the world as an altar consecrated by the blood of Christ. In this way the philanthropy of Christ is mirrored through us to the world he loves—just as Christ mirrored his father’s philanthropy to us. “I tell you the truth,” says Jesus in John 5:19 (NIV), “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
The word Paul uses for worship in Romans 12:1, latreia, is a philanthropic term. It is Greek for a type of worship that means service to God. What Paul suggests here, as in Titus 3, is that our bodily service—our direct, beneficent, unwavering, unwarranted friendship with others arising from God’s beneficent friendship with us—is worship of God, our priestly service of mediating God to the world.
This is the Whole Life Offering: God’s whole life is offered to us in Christ; our whole life is then offered to God as we embody God’s comprehensive philanthropy to others.
(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, The Whole Life Offering: Christianity as Philanthropy, scheduled for release in January 2011. A set of ten foundational principles—The Whole Life Offering Ten–sketch the contours of this Whole Life Offering. We’ll debut that list in the next post.)