Definition of Charity, from LDS Humanitarian Services

Charity is a funny word.

In the U.S. our culture has us define charity as giving something (money, clothes, food) to people in need.  No one wants to be a “charity case.”  People want to give charity, but only when it is safe.  For example, many people at church give money to people in need (usually considered to be giving charity), but when a person in need shows up, what do they do?  In this article you can see that giving charity in an envelope is easier than being kind, Christ-like, etc. when a person in need is in front of you: ‘The congregation was besides themselves’: Mormon bishop dresses as homeless man to teach flock a lesson

I’m not saying that people should have flocked to him, opened their wallets, or hugged him all day long… remember, this is the same area where Elizabeth Smart was abducted by a homeless person.  Coming from an FBI family I have been taught to be skeptical, etc.  What I’m saying is that “charity,” especially this worldly, traditional definition, is a lot more complex than it seems.  Especially with articles like this: Undercover video shows panhandler turn donations into drugs

Contrast all that skeptacism with the idea that we are supposed to be charitable… so what does that mean, and why?  How do we do it without being conned, or supporting things we don’t agree with (or can’t afford ourselves)?

In LDS scripture you can read what Mormons are taught about “charity” (reference):

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

That’s pretty good stuff, huh?  How is this put into action?  Here’s a wonderful quote from someone who works in the humanitarian offices of the LDS church.  Aside from the definition from scriptures above, and the idea of charity as giving things to othesr, she goes to the heart of WHY (reference):

“Charity is more than aid,” said Sharon Eubank, director of Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities. Referring to a story about the church’s humanitarian efforts after World War II, she said, “It emphasizes dignity, human worth, cooperation, unity, sacrifice and the assurance that no one is too poor or too disabled or too marginalized to contribute something of value.”

I love the “it emphasizes…” part.  Charity is not just about a bite to eat or clothes to wear, although those can be lifesaving and critical.  Charity emphasizes:

  • dignity
  • human worth
  • cooperation
  • unity
  • sacrifice
  • and helping people “contribute something of value.”

This list of whys is really quite empowering to the human soul.  Empowering one human can touch so many lives.

I love what I’m learning about charity, both as a “pure love of Christ,” to the core of who I am, and as a “giving” to empower people.  What a great list of reasons to give.

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