[do action=”vfdictstart” title=”char·i·ty”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless: to devote one’s life to charity.”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”something given to a person or persons in need; alms: She asked for work, not charity. “/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”a charitable act or work. “/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”a charitable fund, foundation, or institution: He left his estate to a charity.”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”benevolent feeling, esp. toward those in need or in disfavor: She looked so poor that we fed her out of charity. “/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”leniency in judging others; forbearance: She was inclined to view our selfish behavior with charity. “/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”Christian love; agape.”/] [do action=”vfdictend”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” author=”Jack London”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A rich man without charity is a rogue; and perhaps it would be no difficult matter to prove that he is also a fool.” author=”Henry Fielding”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The charity that hastens to proclaim its good deeds, ceases to be charity, and is only pride and ostentation.” author=”William Hutton”/]
Benevolent feeling toward those in need, generous actions.
In a recent survey by the Association of Life Underwriters of Washington, D.C., it was shown that for every dollar reaching the needy, the sick, the underprivileged child, and the aged adult, the cost of channeling it through a church is just eight cents, while the cost of channeling it through voluntary charitable organizations is 27 cents, and finally through the federal government is a whopping 3 dollars.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”True charity consists in putting up with all one’s neighbor’s faults, never being surprised by his weakness, and being inspired by the least of his virtues.” author=”St. Teresa of Lisieux”/]
What is Charity?
Charity is defined as the strength to do good for others. It is living in the service of everyone around us and giving of ourselves in complete selflessness. Charity can take any one of many different forms of acts of service to teammates, classmates, coaches, parents, siblings, co-workers, friends, and even strangers. Many forms of charity are concerned with providing money, food, water, clothing, and shelter, but other actions may be performed as acts of charity: visiting the imprisoned or the homebound, dowries for poor women, ransoming captives, educating orphans. It is not just the giving of money, but the giving of oneself. When we give of ourselves generously we do not lose, for in this universe things have a way of coming back to us—both good and evil. Give without measure. You never know what lies ahead, so do your giving while you have the chance. Do not simply give, but give boldly, enthusiastically, and energetically. What about your assets ? Your money, your land, your stocks, your bonds, your wealth….whom do they serve? Can you eat that bank balance? Who is enjoying that stock certificate today? Who does your money serve? What goes around comes around. Your actions all have consequences. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can get away with making selfish choices. It will come around in the long run. With the virtue of charity, the focus should constantly be on trying to do what’s best for others and avoiding the opposing vice of selfishness.
Charity teaches us to measure our lives by giving rather than gains, by sacrifices rather than self-preservation, by time spent for others, rather than time lavished upon ourselves, by love poured out rather than love poured in.
A Strange Story About Charity From Stephen King
By Randy Alcom
One of the most remarkable articles on giving I’ve ever read came from an unlikely source. Horror novelist Stephen King. No one would accuse King of being virtuous, and certainly not a syrupy idealist. But he makes a passionate and perceptive secularist/hedonist argument for giving. Though he fails the test of eternal perspective, King intuitively recognizes not only that giving is right, but that it’s smart. He doesn’t understand that the glory of virtue, the good of others, and the giver’s eternal rewards are all higher reasons to give. But even bereft of a virtuous worldview, the author recognizes that giving packs a transcendent purpose and pleasure here and now. King has a more accurate view of giving than most people:
Stephen King tells this story……
A couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.
…We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.
All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade—all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex….
So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on….
Now imagine a nice little backyard, surrounded by a board fence. Dad—a pleasant fellow, a little plump—is tending the barbecue. Mom and the kids are setting the picnic table: fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad, a chocolate cake for dessert. And standing around the fence, looking in, are emaciated men and women, starving children. They are silent. They only watch.
That family at the picnic is us; that backyard is America, and those hungry people on the other side of the fence, watching us sit down to eat, include far too much of the rest of the world: Asia and the subcontinent; countries in Central Europe, where people live on the edge from one harvest to the next; South America, where they’re burning down the rain forests; and most of all, Africa, where AIDS is pandemic and starvation is a fact of life.
It’s not a pretty picture, but we have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse?
Because we’re going to take it with us? Please.
Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens; one does it to improve one’s self….
A life of giving—not just money, but time and spirit—repays. It helps us remember that we may be going out broke, but right now we’re doing O.K. Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves.
So I ask you to begin giving, and to continue as you begin. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.
The History of the word “Charity”
The word “charity” entered the English language through the Old French word “charité” which was derived from the Latin “caritas”. Originally in Latin the word caritas meant preciousness, dearness, high price. From this, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agapē, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others. Almsgiving, the act of giving money, goods or time to the unfortunate, either directly or by means of a charitable trust or other worthy cause, is described as charity or charitable giving. The poor, particularly widows and orphans, and the sick and disabled, are generally regarded as the proper objects of almsgiving. Donations to causes that would benefit the unfortunate indirectly, as donations to cancer research hope to benefit cancer victims, are also charity. The name stems from the most obvious expression of the virtue of charity is giving the objects of it the means they need to survive. Most forms of charity are concerned with providing food, water, clothing, and shelter, and tending the ill, but other actions may be performed as charity: visiting the imprisoned or the homebound, dowries for poor women, ransoming captives, educating orphans. Although giving to those nearly connected to oneself is sometimes called charity — as in the saying “Charity begins at home” — normally charity denotes giving to those not related, with filial piety and like terms for supporting one’s family and friends. The recipient of charity may offer to pray for the benefactor; indeed, in medieval Europe, it was customary to feast the poor at the funeral in return for their prayers for the deceased. Institutions may commemorate benefactors by displaying their names, up to naming buildings or even the institution itself after the benefactors. If the recipient makes material return of more than a token value, the transaction is normally not called charity. Originally almsgiving entailed the benefactor directly giving the goods to the receiver. People who could not support themselves — or who feigned such inability — would become beggars. Institutions evolved to carry out the labor of assisting the poor, and these institutions are called charities. These include orphanages, food banks, religious orders dedicated to care of the poor, hospitals, organizations that visit the homebound and imprisoned, and many others. Such institutions allow those whose talents do not lend themselves to caring for the poor to enable others to do so, both by providing money for the work and supporting them while they do the work. Institutions can also attempt to more effectively sort out the actually needy from those who fraudulently claim charity.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.” author=”Albert Camus”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Charity sees the need not the cause.” author=”German Proverb”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Charity begins at home.” author=”Terence“/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord delivers him in the day of trouble.” author=”Judaism”/]
Stewardship and Charity
Few concepts are more misunderstood today than the concept of stewardship, the giving of your time, your talent, and your treasure to charity. Many hear the word “stewardship” and immediately it morphs into “fund-raising.” But that is not really what stewardship is about. Not at all. Quite simply, the good steward is the person who takes care of whatever it is that she or he has been entrusted. Uses it well, to good purpose. Doesn’t squander it. A virtuous steward is one who receives blessings gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others and returns them with increase. When we think about it, good stewardship affects every part of our lives. If we have wasted a talent, or dawdle our time away with worthless pursuits, or squander our resources, something inside of us just doesn’t feel right. That’s because our inner compass senses the right direction, even when we sometimes wander off course. On the other hand, when we are using our time, our talents and our material resources well, we feel in balance, in tune. We realize we have been generously given those gifts and, in turn, we are using them for good purposes.
Here is some sound advice about Charity and being a good Steward:
1. Give until it feels good
Genuine, thought-out stewardship is not about pain or depletion. Stewardship is most deeply about pleasure and increase. If you think about it for just a moment, you realize how good you feel when you are generous, when you are doing something that makes a difference in someone’s life. That is what underlies good stewardship, which makes it actually quite natural in our lives. There is something deep within us that is good and generous, some almost biological sensation that is triggered when we see a need. It is that good feeling that wells up within us when another person’s needs and our shared gifts intersect. “It is better to give than to receive” might seem like so many lofty words, but as we look back on our lives, we find they are absolutely true. How many times have we found ourselves saying, after we have extended ourselves (even when a bit begrudgingly): I like doing this. Giving feels great; I’m not depleted at all. In fact, I’m enriched!
And so, good stewards capitalize on such moments. Why not, they say, feel absolutely wonderful when I have given some of my time, or talent or treasure to something or someone and have realized the sharing of that gift has made a difference?
2. See not obligation, but opportunity
Love—or good stewardship—can’t be demanded from a person as an obligation. There is no vitality, no life when actions are little more than a “command performance.” When virtuous people really begin to understand good stewardship (usually because of someone’s example of generosity and then in becoming more generous themselves) a light often goes on. “This is exciting; this is actually fun,” the person discovers. And then the entrepreneurial side of stewardship kicks in. “Where can I help? What are the needs here? What difference can I—me, specifically me, with what I have to offer—what difference can I make?” The good steward is awake, alert to opportunities about them, actually looking for chances to make that difference.
3. Give to specifics
Good stewards dislike—and rightly so—generic appeals. Good stewards also are less generous—and rightly so—if they do not know to what or to whom their generosity is being directed. Good stewards are eager to hear the stories, the modern day parables of lives changed, enriched, made better and more human because of their generosity. They understand that good stewardship is not lived by merely dumping their time, talent and treasure into some dark hole, while piously folding their hands and uttering, “I gave.” That actually would be a testimony to poor stewardship. Good stewards, carefully marshaling their gifts, are willing to be generous, but in turn expect accountability for those gifts they have shared. It is a real satisfaction, a deserved satisfaction, in knowing that because of their efforts a young mother was provided a safe home for her baby and herself, the youth mission trip went smoothly, the program is deepening people’s spirituality, or dinners and visits to the widower made an enormous difference after the death of his beloved life’s companion.
4. Have an ‘attitude of gratitude’
Good stewards are constantly aware and amazed by what they have been given. “How lucky I am!” easily comes off their lips and is radiated in their faces. Through some miraculous confluence of abilities, good fortune and time they have been able to earn—or often times, been given outright—material wealth or possessions far beyond anything they might have imagined. Good stewards have good memories, recalling where they came from, the struggles of their parents, the struggles of their own lives, those peaks and those valleys that shaped them and brought them to this very moment. And they find themselves deeply grateful.
It’s an “attitude of gratitude.” Good stewards know that they didn’t earn their time, talents or treasure. These are truly gifts —miraculously and randomly scattered over the human race.
5. Share various gifts at the right times
Good stewardship is not a calcified formula or a specific recipe. “To four parts time, add two parts talent and sprinkle three parts treasure over the top and serve.” Not at all. At various times in our lives, we will be more able to give of our time, our talents, our treasure. The busy young executive may not have the time to sit in a retirement home and play bingo every morning, but she may have the organizational skills to organize that. A retired couple with a fixed income may have to be careful about their limited finances, but they may be able to spend time in the day-care center with children of working parents. The good steward practices, once again, that stewardship truism, “Do what you can. Not what you can’t.” Different situations in the life of our families, our communities will call forth different applications of those three trusty pillars of good stewardship: time, talent, treasure. Good stewards don’t envision themselves as solo singers. Rather, they are happy to take their place as members of a vast chorus of goodness, with a rich combination of gifts making a joyful noise.
6. Realize Virtue will point the way
Stewardship is in our hearts, but like any other discipline, good stewardship takes time to infuse our total being. And so the operative word that the good steward uses is: “Relax!” Your heart will point the way. It is not so much that good stewardship has a learning curve; it is more an experiential curve. In other words as we “do” or live good stewardship, we become better and better at it. And, as we experience that satisfaction (it is really virtue streaming into our lives) that comes from sharing some portion of our time, our talents and our treasure, we hunger for more. It becomes easier, more natural. Once a person actively commits herself or himself to the first step—becoming a conscious or intentional steward—the next steps and portions of the stewardship journey will reveal themselves. In people they meet, situations they see, words they hear, they will begin to hear the soft, gentle call, asking them to respond. The good steward then responds, not out of guilt, but out of gratitude. Not responding to every one of the thousands of voices and needs that cry out, but to certain ones that, at this particular time of life, can be addressed.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Unity in things necessary, liberty in things doubtful, charity in everything.” author=”Anonymous”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.” author=”Richard Baxter”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”God bless thee; and put meekness in thy mind, love, charity, obedience, and true duty!” author=”William Shakespeare”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”In charity there is no excess.” author=”Sir Francis Bacon”/]
True Charity: Selfless, Not Self-serving
By William F. Torpey
I cringe every time I hear about some multi-billionaire donating money to charity.I don’t cringe because I have anything against charity; in fact, I have a high regard for true charities, as if charity needs a modifier. I cringe because, to me, charity is selfless, not self-serving.
Billionaires and even lowly millionaires, may or may not be altruistic about giving to “charity,” but in either event they gain considerable benefits from their donations. Not insignificant among the benefits of giving is the generous tax deductions granted by both the federal and state governments.
Too Much of a Skeptic
Maybe 45 years in the field of journalism has made me too much of a skeptic, but I feel that most so-called philanthropists gain more than just the simple thanks of the people and organizations who are the recipients of their largesse. Certainly, the money these wealthy people give does a great deal of good to many individuals and to charities around the world. It isn’t the individual philanthropist or the many deserving charities that gives me pause; rather, it’s the government and the way Congress and state legislatures treat donations to charities. Poor people in general and the great middle class in particular tend to react favorably to large donations by wealthy individuals and organizations to legitimate charities. Their eyebrows raise at least an inch, inevitably, when I mention my disdain about any particular charitable donation.
Their surprise turns to puzzlement, however, when I explain that every time a billionaire makes a large contribution to charity — and billion-dollar gifts are beginning to become a reality — my taxes (and yours) will have to go up.
Charitable Tax Deductions
If you think about it for a moment you’ll realize that when Bill Gates gives $1 billion to charity he gets a tax write off. The government has a budget equal to its expenses, so if it does not collect money because of charitable deductions, it has to raise that money someplace else — and you know where! On top of that, charities that receive multi-million dollar contributions from individuals or corporations treat their beneficiaries like gods. If the benefactor recommends someone for a job at the charity, you can bet they’ll get the job! That’s power, and only a sample of benefits contributors receive. Just look at the Rockefeller and Ford foundations if you have any doubt about it.
‘Love of Humanity’
My dictionary defines charity as “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity.” I don’t believe givers should be getting anything in return except gratitude. I have little regard for most charitable organizations I’ve had any contact with, largely because their bureaucratic organizations “talk the talk” better than they “walk the walk,” as they say in today’s idiom.
In my book, the Salvation Army comes in head and shoulders above all others. The army doesn’t put you through a ringer before it decides whether to help you or not. If you are in need, the army’s soldiers try to find a way to help — that’s what I call charity.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The living need charity more than the dead.” author=”George Arnold”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.” author=”Jewish Proverb”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Charity–to be moved at the sight of the thirsty, the hungry, and the miserable and to offer relief to them out of pity–is the spring of virtue.” author=”Jainism”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Relieve people in distress as speedily as you must release a fish from a dry rill (lest he die). Deliver people from danger as quickly as you must free a sparrow from a tight noose. Be compassionate to orphans and relieve widows. Respect the old and help the poor.” author=”Taoism”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be…. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him; because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and the poor, in the land. ” author=”Judaism and Christianity”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When the Holy One loves a man, He sends him a present in the shape of a poor man, so that he should perform some good deed to him, through the merit of which he may draw a cord of grace. ” author=”Judaism”/]
When you look at someone who is down in the gutter, remember that there but by the grace of God could walk you.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ”Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, ”Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, ”Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, ”Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then the they also will answer, ”Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, ”Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” author=”Christianity and Islam”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”One should give even from a scanty store to him who asks.” author=”Buddhism”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Even a poor man who himself subsists on charity should give charity.” author=”Judaism”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” author=”Christianity”/]
The Charitable Forklift Driver
Matel “Mat” Dawson, a forklift driver at Ford Motor Co., has donated $200,000 to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan for scholarships. The gift brings to over $1 million the total amount Dawson has donated to charity so far. Asked what motivates him to give, Dawson said: “I was raised like that – to help others…. I enjoy it; I can go home and sleep good now.” Dawson, 78, has worked for 59 years at Ford, and might have retired decades ago. Instead, he continues to work 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week. Although his earnings, including overtime, can reach $100,000, he lives in a one-bedroom apartment and drives a 1985 Ford Escort. His charitable donations usually are for scholarships, which he stipulates must be given on the basis of need to students of all races and backgrounds. “I’ve owned big homes and big cars and that don’t excite me no more,” Dawson told the Detroit News. “I just want people to say that I tried to help somebody.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbor, and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.” author=”Islam”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” author=”Bible”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”With malice toward none, with charity for all, …let us strive on to finish the work we are in, …to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” author=”Abraham Lincoln“/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The husband and wife of the house should not turn away any who comes at eating time and asks for food. If food is not available, a place to rest, water for refreshing one’s self, a reed mat to lay one’s self on, and pleasing words entertaining the guest–these at least never fail in the houses of the good.” author=”Hinduism”/]
Oral Lee Brown, Founder, Oral Lee Brown Foundation, Oakland, CA, who works as a real estate agent in Oakland, California, knows the high cost of an education. That’s because she’s sent dozens of students to college. The kids owe it all to a chance encounter that brought Oral Lee to one of Oakland’s poorest primary schools. As she stood before the first-grade class, she made an impulsive promise to pay college tuition for any student who finished high school. She’s used her limited income to keep that promise and raised $1 million more to give three other classes a chance for college. The many kids she’s “adopted” regard her fondly as a mentor, tutor, and second mom. For Oral Lee, it is a simple matter of giving back and saying thanks for all the blessings she has received.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you give, it will be measured back to you.” author=”Luke 6:38″/]
Under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
BEING KIND IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEING RIGHT.
True Charity[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When thou doest give alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” author=”Matthew 6:3″/]
There are some people who want every good thing they do well advertised. If they give money to some good cause, they want to have it noticed in the papers. If they are kind to the poor or relieve some case of distress, they are particular that the matter should be duly published. They take pains that their charities shall not fail to be credited to themselves. But this is not the kind of spirit virtue calls us to. Seeking publicity for charitable acts tarnishes the beauty of alms-giving; that instead of announcing to all men what you have done, you should not even let their own left hand know that their right hand had been doing commendable things.
That doesn’t mean that we should not be good before people or that we should never give alms save where the act would be absolutely secret. It is the motive that counts most. We should never give for the sake of men’s praise. Virtuous acts instantly lose all their value when any motive but the honor of doing good is in our hearts. We shouldn’t even think about our charities, but should forget them as the tree forgets the fruits it drops. We should train ourselves therefore to do our good deeds without seeking praise or recognition of men. We should not be so anxious to have our card tacked on every gift we send. We ought to be willing to do good while we stay back unknown and unrecognized.
Florence Nightingale, having gone like an angel of mercy among the hospitals in the Crimea until her name was enshrined in every soldier’s heart, asked to be excused from having her picture taken, that she might be forgotten, and that virtue alone might be remembered as the author of all the blessings which her hand had distributed.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”If thou art rich, then show the greatness of thy fortune; or what is better, the greatness of thy soul…support the distressed, and patronize the neglected. Be great; but let it be in considering riches as they are, as talents committed to an earthen vessel. Thou art but the receiver.” author=”Laurence Stern”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all people you can, as long as ever you can.” author=”John Wesley”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” author=”Nelson Henderson”/]
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I gave a beggar from my little store
Of well-earned gold. He spent the shining ore
And came again, and yet again, still cold
And hungry, as before.
I gave a thought, and through that thought of mine
He found himself, the man, supreme, divine!
Fed, clothed, and crowned with blessings manifold.
And now he begs no more.
Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate
Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), should serve as a reminder of the importance of charity in the life of the virtuous person. In his introduction to the encyclical, the pope writes, “Charity is at the heart of our social doctrine.” He then makes clear that our charity must be true charity. “Without truth,” he says, “charity degenerates into sentimentality.” All of us are members of one family. When we understand that we are all members of the same human family we can no longer ask Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Instead, we must realize that our freedom cannot take the form of simply amassing as much wealth as we can. Instead, the actions we take should reflect the reality of our familial connection to our neighbor, and we should take stock of how everything we do affects others. In fact, to be virtuous is to be a man or woman for others. This is the beautiful message of the encyclical.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”If thou art rich, then show the greatness of thy fortune; or what is better, the greatness of thy soul…support the distressed, and patronize the neglected. Be great; but let it be in considering riches as they are, as talents committed to an earthen vessel. Thou art but the receiver.” author=”Laurence Stern”/]
Don’t be so quick to judge the “crosses” that others bear.
What is Stewardship? – How To Live A Lifestyle of Charitable Giving
by Casey Slide
When I moved to Atlanta and started going to my current church, I wanted to get involved by joining a ministry. As it so happened, they were holding a ministry fair, and I decided to check it out. I walked around and looked at all the booths to see where I would best fit. I passed the choir booth, but I couldn’t sing. I passed the quilting booth, but I couldn’t sew. Around and around I went, but I didn’t really feel like there was a place for me.
I began to get discouraged. I was brought up to believe that giving of one’s time and talents is an essential way build character and help the community. As I walked around, someone came up to me and asked me what I was looking for. I told them about my predicament, and explained how firmly I believed in giving of my time. Their response was, “You sound perfect for the Stewardship Committee!” And my reply was, “Stewardship…what’s that?”
What Is Stewardship?
There are various intentions of the word stewardship. However, I describe it as a responsibility for any blessings you may have. Your blessings could include your talents, time, or financial freedom. If you are responsible with these blessings, it means that you care for and share them with others.
Although stewardship is generally a religious term, I believe all people can live a life of stewardship. After all, we live only briefly in this world, and our possessions won’t come with us when we leave. It is up to us to care for what we have, when we have it.
When I think of stewardship, there are three main categories that help me to understand how I can act as a good steward:
- Treasure – We must share our financial success with those who have less than we do.
- Talent – A good steward shares his or her talents in order to benefit others.
- Time – Our time is one of our most valuable possessions. A good steward dedicates some of his or her spare time in order to do good.
By giving of our treasure, talent, and time, we are good stewards of what we are so fortunate to have received. Whether you believe you received them from a higher power or more basic human circumstance, you are a unique individual with your own special set of skills and talents that can be used to help others.
What Are The Characteristics Of Being A Good Steward?
1. Give Always
Whether you are at your workplace, church, the mall, with your family, or out somewhere in your community, a good steward gives. At work, volunteer to do a task that no one else wants to do (this is a good way to get a raise or job promotion anyway). At the mall, let the mother with the crying baby cut in line at checkout. At home, serve your family by putting them first: help out with chores (even the ones you’re not assigned on the weekly house cleaning schedule), support others emotionally, and always say thank you. Even when it comes to your finances, consider fitting giving into your monthly budget.
2. Be Joyful
If you give your time, money, or talent with an open heart, you will experience joy. Not only will you receive joy, but also all those who benefit from your gift will feel joy as well. If you lack joy, you are only giving out of obligation. When you give, know you are doing something good and worthy.
3. Remember All Is Temporary
Sometimes I get very consumed with acquiring stuff, especially in our society where many people are addicted to things like consumer electronics. Humans are naturally materialistic because we live in such a tangible world.
But when I truly think about it, it seems that all my efforts are worthless. What is the point of acquiring stuff and being the best? I hope my children will remember me because I am a good person, not because I have money or talent.
How Do We Become Good Stewards?
I don’t believe that you can wake up one day and decide that you want to become a more generous person. You need to really plan and prepare yourself for that type of lifestyle. You must get to know yourself and understand your talents so that you know how you can reasonably give of yourself and in what ways.
Here are some tips to get you started in that process.
Just as you would sit down and plan out a budget, you need to sit down and plan a stewardship budget of your time and talent. Hopefully you already include treasure in your financial budget. Make a stewardship budget every year, and then review it each month to see how you are doing. Are you becoming the person you want to be?
2. Know Your Purpose
You have to be deliberate in your decision to live a life of stewardship. To do that, know your purpose. Are you doing this to better yourself, your community, and the future for your children? If you are spiritual, are you doing this for the benefit of your soul? Remember your purpose because it will keep you motivated and help you stop procrastination while practicing effective time management skills and techniques. This will also guide you in the ways you should give.
Tip: Don’t spread yourself too thin. My friend once told me she imagines herself as a water pitcher being poured out into cups. She pictures herself filling up a few cups completely instead of putting one drop in many.
3. Stay Balanced
Would you like to act as a good steward? That’s great! However, don’t overdo it. There is only so much we can give of ourselves. Examine your obligations and needs, and decide how much of your time, talent, and treasure you can reasonably share. Do you want to tithe, even if you are still getting out of debt? Can you want to commit a certain number of hours a week to volunteer?
Remember that becoming a good steward is not only a lifestyle, but also a lifelong process. Start small and work your way up. If you make it your New Year’s resolution to become a good steward, think of one way to give of your time, another way for your talent (or combine it with your time), and one way to give of your treasure. If you start small, there is a better chance for success.
Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do. —Saint Thomas Aquinas
The Science Behind Our Generosity
By Peter Singer
Imagine that you are walking near a shallow ornamental pond when you notice that a small child has fallen in, and is apparently in danger of drowning. You look around for the child’s caregiver, but there is no one in sight. Without pausing even to pull off the expensive pair of shoes you are wearing, you rush into the water to save the child.
You don’t have to be a hero to do that. We expect it of you. You’d have to be a monster to put the cost of your shoes ahead of saving the child’s life.
Or would you? UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, tells us that nearly 10 million children under 5 die each year from causes that we could prevent. That’s 27,000 children dying every day. They die from diseases that are easy and inexpensive to prevent or treat, or from the lack of safe drinking water, sanitation and an adequate diet. GiveWell.net, an organization that assesses the cost-effectiveness of aid, suggests that for something like the cost of a pair of expensive shoes, you could save the life of one of these children.
It may seem odd to talk about giving more now, when we all feel so tapped out and worried. But that’s not a very good excuse. No matter how hard hit we are by the economic slowdown, we are still vastly better off than those who are so poor that they struggle to meet their basic needs. Yet, though it would take comparatively little effort on our part, few of us choose to help them. Why is that?
People are more willing to help a single individual than many. In an experiment, one group was given general information about the need for donations, including statements like “Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children.” A second group was shown the photo of a 7-year-old Malian girl named Rokia, and told that she is desperately poor, and that “her life will be changed for the better by your gift.” People in the second group gave more.
In the pond example, only you could save the child. Anyone with a little money to spare could save the poor child dying from diarrhea. That diffusion of responsibility brings out what psychologists call the bystander effect—if I hear someone calling for help, and I am the only one around, I am more likely to help than if there is someone else with me who also hears the call but does nothing. Unfortunately, when it comes to world poverty, there are many who do nothing.
“Futility thinking” also plays a role. Giving money to help the poor is, we say, just drops in the ocean. We focus on those we cannot save rather than on those we can. People will give more to save 80 percent of 100 lives at risk than they will to save 20 percent of 1,000 lives at risk—in other words, more to save 80 lives rather than to save 200 lives.
Subtle shifts could help to overcome our psychological barriers to giving. Just as seeing other bystanders not helping makes us less likely to help, so knowing that others are giving makes us more likely to give. Jesus may have advised us to do our almsgiving in secret so that God will reward us in heaven, but if the aim is to get as much assistance to the poor as possible, that isn’t sound psychology. The more people talk about what they give, the more we can expect others to give or even pledge it online (for example, at thelifeyoucansave.com).
In “The Life You Can Save,” I suggest levels of donation that Americans could reasonably give, without any great sacrifices. They begin at 1 percent of income for 90 percent of American taxpayers, rising to 5 percent for those earning above $105,000 a year, and gradually increasing until they peak at 33.3 percent for those earning more than $10 million a year. That would raise more than $500 billion a year—more than double a U.N. estimate of what it would take to cut world poverty in half.
Some will still ask why we should give at all. Don’t we have a right to keep our hard-earned money? Maybe we do. This isn’t a matter of rights, it’s a matter of making choices that are wise for our planet, for our children and for ourselves. On the last of these, I will cite one more piece of psychological research. There is now abundant evidence supporting what philosophers and teachers have told us since ancient times: the good person is also—typically—a happy person. A survey of 30,000 American households found that those who gave to charity were 43 percent more likely to say they were “very happy” about their lives than those who did not give. The survey doesn’t show whether giving made people happy, or happy people were more likely to give, but the anecdotal evidence is strong that many people find that when they begin to give, they free themselves from the acquisitive treadmill and find new meaning and fulfillment in their lives.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”See to it that whoever enters your house obtains something to eat, however little you may have. Such food will be a source of death to you if you withhold it.” author=”Native American Religions”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” author=”Christianity”/]
The Virtue of Small Charities
By Ray Pennings
Of all the small incorporated non-profit and voluntary organizations . . .
- the top 1% account for 59% of revenues received;
- 42% of the charities have revenues of less than $30,000 and collectively account for just 1% of revenues;
- 40% of charities have no paid staff
- 37% have just 1-5 employees
- 64% of charities operate in local communities with local mandates
Most small charities are pretty humble organizations.
A short blog doesn’t provide space to tell these charities’ stories. A small board of four or five dedicated persons support the driving leadership of a couple of individuals. Their work, whether in focusing on some neighborhood need or raising funds for a well in Africa, is supported by a community of a few hundred people who write checks in response to appeals, who cry and pray when told of the hurt that needs healing, and who shed tears of joy when modest successes are realized. Many of these charities have no profile beyond the few hundred people in their network of support, or beyond the few thousand people who they may help over the lifetime of the charity.
In the context of national public policy, charitable work by these small organizations amounts to a fraction of a decimal point of the collective efficacy, a rounding error. In the lives of those involved, though, whether in giving or receiving (and are they not sometimes indistinguishable?), the work of these charities can be definitive, life-altering.
Small charities are mostly overshadowed by high-profile campaigns, such as those by health, education, or international relief foundations. In making this point, I am neither denigrating the merits of high-profile campaigns nor agreeing with the too-easy criticism that charitable dollars raised by professional fundraising campaigns invalidates the worthiness of their cause. I don’t doubt there are some “bad apples” among charities large and small, as there are in every sector. However if I need to take a side in arguing the value offered to society for any government line item, I would be quite prepared to argue that the tax expenditure line for charitable giving probably offers any country the greatest return on investment of any line in the government estimates.
There is more to my argument than the nostalgic “small is beautiful” argument. (When it comes to things like flying, car-making, or building office-towers, I am much more likely to prefer big over small organizations. Even in the charitable sector, there are many activities more effectively administered by big charities.) Still, let’s not overlook the virtue and unique contribution of the small charity.
Smaller organizations can often leverage the commitment of volunteers and spend the greatest proportion of their resources directly on their mission in a way that accomplishes a great deal with very little. Because they are locally focused on a particular local manifestation of a problem, they are able to customize and focus their energies on responses that are best for the particular situation.
Smaller charities are also better able to accommodate diversity. With each focusing on the needs of their local communities, a particularly charity may be less diverse in its composition but the cumulative service of several small charities is likely to be more diverse and sensitive to local needs than would be the impact of a larger charity with the same reach.
The most compelling argument, however, is that of subsidiarity. Having charities closely connected to their grassroots provides accountability and an ownership that can rarely be matched in a larger charity. It reflects a healthier model of social architecture that is often overlooked in our drive for efficiency.
We need the contributions of charities, both large and small. As our government considers how best to incentivize charities, they need to be particularly attentive to small charities, given the trends that are putting them at a particular disadvantage. They may be easily overlooked, but they punch above their weight in terms of impact and so should not be forgotten.