What Is Charity?

“Charity thinks no evil, that is, is not a ‘mote hunter.’ These are things that develop complete Christianity in your life. These are things that make you like Jesus Christ. And honestly, when you get them, when charity gets control of you, you’re one of the most elegant individuals that ever existed. Charity will take from you all your human aggressiveness. Charity will take from you all protection. Charity will make you where you will not hurt anybody. It’s so different from what we see today. But, when God takes those things away from you, He’s going to give you something else, that will be far greater than anything you have ever possessed. We’ve got the Holy Ghost; we speak in tongues; we shout; get people healed at times; people get converted and filled with the Spirit; we sing; and we have visions, tongues and interpretations at times; And that’s all good, but it hasn’t brought us to where, in private, we always speak well of each other. It hasn’t caused us to quit criticizing each other. It hasn’t caused us to quit imagining things. It hasn’t caused us to cease from hurting each other’s influence. True charity is not typified by an alms box; some people think that, if they give a little bit, that’s all that’s necessary. The benevolence of the checkbook does not meet all the woes of humanity. Giving food, clothing, and money to the poor is only the beginning, the kindergarten class. Charity has higher, purer forms of manifestation. Charity is the incentive reaching out for justice and light. Charity seeks to smooth down the rough places of living, to bridge the chasms of human folly and sin, to find the hungry heart, to give strength to the struggling, to be tender with human weakness. And greatest of all, it means obeying the divine injunction, ‘Judge not.’ These are just words, but brother, every one of them is weighty.”— James Sowders

I remember the first time I read the above quote, and I may have even cried.  Many people think that charity is giving an offering, or donating old clothes to Goodwill, but charity is a virtue.

“In Christian theology charity, latin caritas, is by Thomas Aquinas understood as “the friendship of man for God”, which “unites us to God”. He holds it as “the most excellent of the virtues”.  Further, Aquinas holds that “the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor”.

Charity is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word “love”. The love that is caritas is distinguished by its origin, being divinely infused into the soul, and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up. According to Aquinas, charity is an absolute requirement for happiness, which he holds as man’s last goal. ~Wikipedia

Jesus tells his disciples in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Paul told the church in Corinth:  “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13)

Paul shows that charity is higher than any form of spirituality that one might think they posses.  All our righteousness is as filthy rags, and we are comanded by Jesus to love our enemies and have the perfect love of God.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

I think we are all searching for love.  We look for it in people, drugs, sex, attention and it never satisfies and we are left empty inside.  We build up meaningless idols that we think love us, that usually let us down.  Everywhere you look people are talking about love.  If you look close a lot of times the reason people are so messed up is because they were denied love on many different levels.  Whether it is from the lack of love from a mother or a father, or a lover or friend who has let them down.  God, the only one with perfect love for us, is the only one who can satisfy our need for love.  What other God do you know in all the religions of the world, would send his Son to die for you?  Where the Son would willingly come, live a life like a sinful human, denying His flesh and go to a cross to die an unthinkable death, all in the name of love.

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

There is a higher purpose to life, and it is that, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~Jesus


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