Charity and Loving Your Neighbor
886. What is the true meaning of the word charity as used by Jesus?
“Benevolence for everyone, indulgence towards the imperfections of others, and forgiveness of offenses.”
Love and charity complement the law of justice since loving your neighbor is to do to them all the good in our power, all that we would wish to have done to ourselves. This is the meaning behind Jesus’ words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
According to Jesus, charity is not restricted to giving alms, but covers all our relations with our fellow human beings whether inferior, equal or superior. It preaches indulgence on our part because we need the same ourselves, and it forbids us from humiliating the unfortunate, as is too often done. How many of us lavish respect and attention on the rich, yet think that being civil to the poor is not worth the time or effort? Yet, the more deplorable the situation of the poor, the more painstakingly we should refrain from adding humiliation to their misfortune. Those who are truly kind, try to elevate others to their level by reducing the distance between them.
887. Jesus also said, “Love your enemies.” Does this contradict our natural tendency, and isn’t unfriendliness due to a lack of sympathy between spirits?
“It would certainly be impossible for someone to feel tender and passionate love for an enemy, and this is not what Jesus intended. ‘Love your enemies’ means to forgive them, and to do good despite their malicious actions. By doing this, you become their superior; by retribution, you sink beneath them.”
888. What should we think of alms giving?
“To be reduced to begging degrades people, both morally and physically; it wears them down. In a society based on Divine law and justice, a provision would be made for assisting the weak without humiliating them. This way, everyone who is unable to work would be guaranteed the means necessary to live so as not to leave their life at the mercy of chance and individual goodwill.”
a) Are you criticizing the practice of giving alms?
“No, giving money to the poor is not what is reprehensible; the problem is the way in which it is too often done. Those who understand charity as preached by Jesus seek out the needy themselves, without waiting for them to hold out their hand.”
“True charity is always gentle and compassionate, because the manner of practicing kindness is as important as the deed itself. A service, when gracefully rendered, has twice as much merit. If this same act is rendered in a patronizing manner, despite being accepted, the recipient’s heart is not touched by it.”
“Remember that ostentation and pretension destroy the merit of generosity in God’s eyes. Jesus said, ‘Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. This teaches that charity should not be tarnished by pride.”
“A distinction must be made between alms giving and benevolence. The neediest individuals are not always those found begging on the side of the road. Many who are truly poor are kept back from begging by dread of humiliation, and preferring to suffer silently and in secret. Those who are truly humane seeks out this hidden misery, and relieves it without any form of pretension.”
“‘Love one another’ is the Divine law by which God governs all the worlds of the universe. Love is the law of attraction for living and organized beings and attraction is the law of love for inorganic matter.”
“Never forget that all spirits, regardless of the degree of advancement, whether reincarnated or errant, are always placed between a more evolved spirit who guides and perfects them, and a less evolved one towards which they have the same duties to fulfill. Be charitable, and not just by coldly tossing a coin to a beggar who dares to ask for it from you, but by seeking out the poverty that hides itself from plain view. Be indulgent to the faults and weaknesses of those around you. Instead of despising the ignorant and vicious, educate them and make them better. Be gentle and compassionate to those lagging behind you and act the same with respect to the humblest beings of creation and you will have obeyed God’s law.” Saint Vincent of Paul
889. Aren’t there people reduced to begging due to their own fault?
“Of course, but if a complete moral education had taught them to practice God’s law, they would not have fallen victim to the excesses that caused their demise. The improvement of your world ultimately relies on spreading this education.” (See no. 707)