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One of the most defining characteristics of women is their charity. If you are going to be a nurturer, that is the tool that gets the job done. Charity is loving another person in the same way that you love yourself–if I am hungry, I make myself a sandwich. I don’t need a pat on the back or a receipt showing how much effort went into that sandwich. I just take care of myself. When my kids are hungry, I do the same. I make them a sandwich because they are hungry and I don’t want them to be uncomfortable. Maybe it is oversimplifying, but when someone is charitable to you, it feels like you have someone else, besides yourself, seeing to your needs and wants. It also makes you feel very loved and known.
Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, was extraordinarily charitable. Abraham’s head servant went back to Abraham’s home country, Nahor, to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham knew that Isaac needed to marry someone of his own house in order to preserve the covenant that would be passed down through him.
As the servant neared Nahor, he began to be anxious about the significance of his task—he needed to find a chaste young woman, related to Abraham, who would be willing to leave her family and move to a foreign place to marry a man she had never met. As he approached the city well, he began praying for help:
“O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: and let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give they camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for they servant Isaac; and thereby shall I knew that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.” (Genesis 24:12-14)
Before he had even closed his prayer, Rebekah approached him with her pitcher on her shoulder. He asked her for a drink and she readily assented and then promptly offered to give his camels water as well. He had brought ten camels with him. Ten thirsty camels. The wells were usually dug around a natural spring and in order to draw water, Rebekah had to descend down a flight of stairs, probably about 50 steps each way. She volunteered to descend into the well and retrieve as much water as her pitcher would hold (probably three gallons) over and over and over. Dried-up camels can drink about 25 gallons of water each and he had 10 camels. For Rebekah to adequately water his camels, she had to take about 84 trips up and down the well. That means 4200 steps down and 4200 steps back down. Three gallons of water weighs about 24 pounds, plus the weight of her pitcher. This was no small task for anyone, man or woman.[i]
Rebekah exemplified charity in her self-sacrifice. She was willing to help a stranger because he was thirsty; she went beyond service and kindness into the elevated realm of charity. No doubt the Lord prepared her to be one of the royal queens of the house of Israel and this expression of love was perfectly in harmony with the expectations that Heavenly Father has for all of his royal daughters.
Charity is a divine gift, the highest form of love and worship, the way that Christians are defined, and if we have charity, we have everything. It also makes our self-sacrifice less of a sacrifice because as Rebekah showed with Abraham’s servant, we truly love and value others as much as we love and value our own needs. Our hearts fill with love and it follows naturally that we are willing to give them what they need from what we have.