Performance Enhancing Thoughts: Charity (6)

Charity: Language of the Heart 

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. [1 Peter 4:8 (KJV)].

To most of us, the practice of charity consists of contributions to worthy causes and making regular donations to religious institutions. Generosity is a trait we admire. We recognize the need to free ourselves from the shackles of greed and avarice.

Charity requires a willingness to give and to share what we have, without regard to personal gain or expecting anything in return. After giving from the abundance of our blessings, we are never the same person.

True charity occurs only when there are no notions of giving, giver, or gift. [Gautama Buddha].

All Things Are God’s

Charity offers us immediate satisfaction and enduring rewards. What we do or take for ourselves only burdens our mind and hinders our growth. But, what we give and do for others clears our path and softens our heart.

Worship is giving God the best that He has given you … Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself; it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others. [Oswald Chambers. My Utmost For His Highest].

Our most valued memories include those precious moments when we give to others, not of our possessions or time, but of our feelings and emotions. How wonderful it is that our giving in true charity increases those rare commodities for which we spend so much time and exert so much effort — satisfaction, contentment and joy.

All things are God’s already; we can give him no right, by consecrating any, that he had not before, only we set it apart to his service – just as a gardener brings his master a basket of apricots, and presents them; his lord thanks him, and perhaps gives him something for his pains, and yet the apricots were as much his lord’s before as now. [John Selden and His Table-talk, p. 95].

Be Just in Time

When we are blessed with material prosperity, we encounter people asking us for something, seemingly all the time. If we respond intending to please God, our blessings multiply and our happiness endures. If we respond seeking personal gratification, our pleasure soon disappears.

Few at this day know, that in doing good without a view to recompense, there is heavenly happiness; for they do not know that there is any other happiness than … to be served by others, to abound in riches, and to live in pleasures: they are deeply ignorant that above these things there is a happiness which affects the interiors of man, thus that there is a heavenly happiness, and that this is the happiness of genuine charity. [Emanuel Swedenborg].

Give before a needy person asks. If we force people to beg of us, we rob more from their self-respect than we provide in charity

We should not procrastinate our charitable impulse, postponing our giving, waiting to give until a future time. The next day may find us less willing or less able. We do not know what God has planned for us, nor for the one needing our help.

And spend (in charity) out of the substance which We have bestowed on you, before Death should come to any of you and he should say, “O my Lord! why didst Thou not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good.” [Quran 63:10].

Agape and Charity

Charity originates from our heart, and not from our wallet. To show true charity, in the way that represents Divine love, we must understand and appreciate the source of this spirit, and the nature of this exulted state.

True charity (caritas) has its foundation in pleasing God, not in financial considerations. We may give only a fraction of our wealth, but we must give with all of our heart.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. [1 John 4:12-13].

Deus caritas est—”God is love.” Caritas in Latin means “priceless,” something of “immeasurable worth.” Early Christian theologians used caritas to translate the Greek word agape, referring to the precious loving-kindness of God. Thus, we read “faith, hope and charity” in the King James translation of St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.

However, agape is the Divine love infused into the soul; it is our hope for salvation. It does not mean almsgiving, tithing, or giving to the poor. Today, the preferred translation for agape is love. Nevertheless, “love” is the essential part of “charity,” without which we cannot be truly charitable.

     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. [1 Corinthians 13:2-4 (KJV)].

 

Investing Our Heart

Without the investment of our heart, we feel no sense sacrifice or compassion in our charity. When our heart is not involved, we feel no bond with the poor and may, in fact, believe that God favors us over the poor.

We are obligated to be more scrupulous in fulfilling the commandment of charity than any other positive commandment because charity is the sign of a righteous man. [Maimonides, quoted in A Maimonides Reader by Isadore Twersky, p. 135].

The essence of true charity requires that we be constantly aware that charity represents the love of God. This means that we have adopted this Divine attribute and made it a part of our character.

If thou neglectest thy love to thy neighbor, in vain thou professest thy love to God; for by thy love to God, the love to thy neighbor is begotten, and by the love to thy neighbor, thy love to God is nourished. [Francis Quarles, p. 20].

We have chosen to imitate God’s love, mercy and beneficence, and incorporated those qualities in our giving to others — that is what we can call true charity.

Loving kindness for others guides us toward the ultimate perfection of our soul, for it reflects God’s attribute of love towards us. This “caritas” is divinely ordained and is essential for our salvation. Without it we are lost.

[And] tell [those of] My servants who have attained to faith that they should be constant in prayer and spend [in Our way], secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance, ere there come a Day when there will be no bargaining, and no mutual befriending. [Quran 14:31].

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