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Thursday, December 22, 2016

What Charity Really Means

Language changes over time. When you look up the word "charity" you get definitions like aid, welfare, relief, handouts, largess, alms, philanthropy, nonprofit organization and money given to those in need. Sadly we've lost probably the most important meaning of the world. It's listed under "archaic".  It means love of humankind, typically in a Christian context as in this usage from the King James Bible (I Corinthians 13)

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. "

Newer translations of the Bible substitute the word "love" for charity. Unfortunately, the old meaning should have stuck with us instead of morphing into something that means something shameful as in "We don't need no charity!"

That's sad. If you go by the archaic meaning of the word, you're basically saying, "We don't need no love!"  People give so-called "charity" for a couple of reasons. One group does give charity in order to feel less guilt and may, in fact, look down on those who accept it. But that group is terribly small. I worked for 40 years in the nonprofit sector raising money for and managing charities that helped pre-schoolers, students, abused and mentally ill children, people with disabilities, seniors, and low-income families. Nine out of ten of those working with me in those "charities" did so because they absolutely loved helping people. Their work was their joy and the people they helped, they loved.

After all that, God then taught me to be on the other end of all that love. I cannot tell you all of the people who have helped us pass through the some really rough patches. When it felt like the forces of evil were arrayed against us, there were suddenly angels when we needed them. Thank you to all of our friends who do angel work on the side and have blessed us.

Learning to accept the love of others is sometimes hard. Our pride so often stands in the way. We want to be self-sufficient. We think we don't need no charity.

But we do. If we are unable to accept gifts given in love, can we truly be the complete and loving people God wants us to be. Christmas is a great time to teach our kids about the joy of giving in love as well as accepting what is lovingly given. 

© 2016 by Tom King

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