Ambrose of Milan: Affection of the Heart

“God demands the affection of the heart, which is in our own power … For what would the giving of one’s whole property benefit without charity?

There are some who aim at the credit of generosity for pride alone, because they wish thereby to gain the good opinion of the multitude for leaving nothing to themselves; but whilst they are seeking rewards in this life, they are laying up none for the life to come, and having received their reward here they cannot hope for it there.

Some again, having, through impulsive excitement and not after long consideration, given their possessions to the Church, think that they can claim them back. These gain neither the first nor the second reward, for the gift was made thoughtlessly, its recall sacrilegiously.”

Aurelius Ambrosius (340-397), or Ambrose of Milan, was a bishop and doctor of the church. This excerpt comes from his work, Concerning Repentance, Book II, Chapter IX.

Ambrose announces that our giving must be accompanied with charity, that is, grace-filled love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:3). Without this “affection of the heart,” our giving is meaningless. Remember, we don’t give because the God we serve has deficiencies. God does not need our money; He wants our hearts.

I greatly distain letters from ministries that overemphasize how needs won’t be met unless I give. They exhibit a frazzled trust in people as the source of support. Conversely, I love letters that challenge me to think about God’s generosity toward me and the grace I have received. When I reflect on God’s abundance, the “affection of my heart” grows, and with it, my gratitude and generosity.

If you send such letters, please direct your audience to consider on God’s abundant grace rather than your temporal needs, and ask them to pray with you for God’s provision, thus exhibiting your trust in God as your Provider.

Our giving must also be accompanied with humility rather than the pride. Those who give to get recognition, have received their reward in full (cf. Matthew 6:1-4). Simultaneously, let us resolve not to give thoughtlessly or sacrilegiously. There must be an intentionality and a sincerity to our giving. How we handle money is important to Jesus because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (cf. Matthew 6:21). He wants our hearts!

If you, or perhaps more specifically, your heart needs help with this, call your local National Christian Foundation office. I had the privilege of speaking at a luncheon for their Colorado office and was reminded afresh by Bryan Chrisman of the wonderful services, support, and spiritual insight they offer from their offices around the country.

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