Theological Virtues: Charity

Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’.
-C.S. Lewis

Charity wanting the best for others

Charity from caritas the standard Latin translation for the Greek word Αγάπη, meaning an unconditional love for others. Charity in old english was defined as a Christian love of one’s fellows. Today charity has come to be thought of mostly in the sense of relief by giving money. But it is much more. Unconditional is such a powerful word when we stop to consider it. Not because of anything. Not in return for anything. Non-negotiable, always, no matter what.

Unconditional seems to be a matter of will instead of feeling. So many times we hear people say things like “[they] are in love”. Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about his belief that love is a verb – that love the feeling is the fruit of love the verb. C.S. Lewis notes a lesson in charity revealing one of the great secrets in life: “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them”. He goes on to explain that this secret also works terribly the other way round. Cruel acts produce hatred and more cruelty and on and on. His point? “Good and evil both increase at compound interest.” This is why the little decisions we make day to day are of such importance. The things we do, the seeds we sow, will come to harvest.

Christians by charity are called to unconditionally want the best for others. This is different from liking people. I do not think Christians are called to like everyone by the virtue of charity. I do however think that wanting the best for people, unconditional of your preference to the way they did so and so or that thing they said or what they think about such and such, produces a genuine and authentic liking of them.

We by our very nature afford perfect charity to ourselves. No matter the condition of our preference for ourselves, we want the very best for us. No matter how we fall short of what we think we ought to have done, that is: the degree to which we like ourselves at the moment, the desire for good things for us never wavers. No matter what. Charity I have come to believe is turning this phenomenon outward toward others.  A Christian, unconditional, love for our fellows.  A Christian, unconditional, desire to see others well.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

The Power of Giving in Secret

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

-Jesus Christ

Seljalandfoss Waterfall At Sunset In Hdr, Iceland

In his ninth commandment on making money Rabbi Lapin suggests that we should give away ten percent of our income.  He goes on to say that “charity is irrational” as a means to make money but “nevertheless, it benefits the giver in many ways.”

Since we are on the topic of giving I want to retell a story I recently heard Randall Wallace tell about giving in secret.  It goes like this.

Imagine you come home one day after work and park your car in the street.  The next morning you get up and realize someone has dinged your door.  There is no note.  As you leave for work that morning you can not help but look at your neighbors differently.  That little old lady who was once the nicest grandma in the world does not seem so sweet this morning.  The fine young man next door over is now feeling a lot more like a hooligan.  Those lovely little kids playing ball in the street seem a lot more suspicious this morning.

Now lets imagine you came home from work all the same.  After you finished dinner and were getting ready to sit down with a good book you look outside and notice your trash can blew over.  Trash was everywhere.  In one of your weaker moments you decide you will pick it up in the morning.  The next morning you get dressed and go outside to track down your trash.  But you find your trash can upright and your lawn and block free from trash.  Someone had picked it up for you.  Who did this?  Surely it was that little sweet old lady that now that you think of it always smiles at you, she really is the nicest person.  Or perhaps the fine young man who now that you think of it always says hello and remembers your name too, he really is going places.  Or was it the kiddos who are always playing ball in the street and who now that you think of it always see you coming and pause their game without making you wait, what great and considerate kids.

In the second scenario because one neighbor did something good in secret, they built up good will for the whole neighborhood – which by the way includes them too.  The same resources were deployed but the goodness that resulted was multiplied.  Cool.

A deed done in secret multiplies. Good or bad.

 

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.