If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. – I Corinthians 13:1-3
You only go around once, so you’d better make it worth it.” Even people who give millions of dollars to charity usually do it to receive something in return: notoriety, reputation, a building with their name on it. We all want to leave a mark. We’ve heard it said that “you can’t take it with you,” but deep down, we’re not 100 percent sure that the statement’s true. At least, our lives of accumulation and aspiration would seem to reveal we don’t think so.
One of the students in a high school youth group I was involved with asked me about the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This young man had completely misunderstood Jesus’s words; he had turned them into a kind of karmic good advice: “Do good unto others and they will do good unto you.” This understanding of doing good is probably most exemplified today with the “pay it forward” movement.
It seems so simple: if you want other people to do good to you, you should do good to them. But as Christians, we must read deeper into the Golden Rule. We ought to understand Jesus’s words this way: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—with no expectation of the good in return.” It’s not “Do unto others so they will do unto you.”
If you have not love, you have gained nothing. If you do good expecting good in return, that’s not love. That’s a business transaction. Love is doing good regardless of reciprocation.
Love must be one-way to be worth anything. If we “give away all [our] possessions,” but do it with an eye on the return on investment, we gain nothing. Jesus Christ is the only one-way lover in the history of the world. He loved His enemies—not only those from whom He would get nothing, but those who were actively killing Him—asking God to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. We don’t get out of life what we put in. What we “get out” of life is exactly what Jesus Christ wins for us—the very righteousness of God.
– Tullian Tchividjian, It is Finished