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Charity begins at home

Posted by whybelieveinjesus on January 9, 2017 at 11:45 AM

Have you ever heard the phrase "Charity begins at home"? Often it is taken to mean "Look after your children, your family and close friends and then worry about everyone else afterwards". Before I look at the phrase further, let me applaud the attitude that you should care for those close to you. It is biblical to do so...


"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." ~ 1 Timothy 5:8 (NIV)


"Urge the younger women to love their husbands and children..." ~Titus 2:4 (NIV)


Proverbs 31 concludes with the example of a woman who works hard to ensure that her family and household are all in good order.


Perhaps the strongest case for caring for one's own family came from Jesus himself when he was making note of the Pharisees' habit of neglecting their family so they could give money to the temple and, in effect, wash their hands of responsibility. See Mark 7:9-13 (NIV):


"You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions. For Moses said, "Honour your father and mother," and "Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death." But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) - then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." 


So yes, I approve of the attitude that you should look after those close to you. It is human nature, instinct, and even rife within the animal kingdom that individuals care deeply for those close to them. People who maltreat their own family are seen as abhorent in all walks of life.


However... we need to understand the phrase better. "Charity starts at home" doesn't actually mean that at all. Originally the phrase meant that the art of charity begins in the home, i.e. you teach your children how to be charitable.


This is vastly different although there should be similar outcomes! It is similar in that hopefully one will teach their children to love and care for their family and friends, however it goes deeper. Charity is to be taken beyond those we are close to and shared generously with those we don't know very well, those whom we have never met, and, wait for it, those we don't like!


Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 was a fine example of charity in action (see my page on parables) In short, a Jew was attacked on the road, other important Jews passed him by and left him for dead but a Samaritan (a race not normally friendly with Jews) stopped and cared for the injured Jew. He gave up his time, resources and money and paid for him to be nursed back to health. 


This is an admired parable but if we take the "Charity starts at home" phrase to mean what so many people believe it means, that we care first for our own family and friends, then I wonder at what point we begin to look outwards to others who are in need. Surely there is always something else we can be doing to support our family? There is always more to give. If we limit our love only for those close to us, we fail to love more widely as God does.


I have heard it said many times that "We shouldn't be giving so much money abroad when our own country is in such a mess!" I challenge that. Really? Is the UK in such a mess compared to the countries they refer to. We largely have clean water to drink, sanitation, roofs over our heads, schools to attend, a publicly-funded healthcare system, democracy, jobs, freedom of speech, etc. etc. and yet you want to deny any money going to a country where people die because they cannot drink clean water, they struggle to make it through to the next day, they are terrified by terrorism or oppressive dictatorships, they fear for their very lives, bombs are dropping, lives are lost, people are screaming, the nightmares never end.


The UK is, by comparison, a cushy place to live. Sure, it has problems, and many of them are getting worse, but to completely deny aid to others is somewhat selfish in my opinion. God calls us to love everyone, not just those on our shores. We are all made in His image, we are all of equal value to Him.


I have heard it also said that people refuse to give money to charity because they don't believe it will make a difference, either because the problem seems so much bigger than what they believe they can contribute ("how will my £10 help remove world poverty?!") or they have developed a scepticism for how charities operate. I'm sure there are some dodgy goings on with some charities. You give money to them and they end up in politicians' hands, but this is not the case of all money or all charities. To harden yourself against generosity in this way is an excuse for apathy.


May I encourage you to find ways to share your money, time, talents, skills, resources, knowledge or whatever with other people less fortunate that yourself. Supporting charities is not hard. You can donate to charity shops, give money to a cause that is important to you, or volunteer. I recommend the latter for those blessed with time, and indeed those who are sceptical about where their money is going. If you genuinely believe charities are screwing you over and taking all your money and spending it unwisely, then there is no better solution than to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. You don't need to sign up to an overseas project to help. Local charities and volunteering organisations can offer all sorts of opportunities for any kind of skill or talent. We all have something we can give. Lendwithcare.org is a wonderful initiative which enables you to lend money so that a struggling entrepreneur can get their fledgling business up and running. When they earn your money back, you receive it in full and you can choose to cash out or reinvest in another entrepreneur. Open Doors International are a charity supporting persecuted Christians who offer you the opportunity to put pen to paper and support by writing letters of encouragement. MissionAssist is a great company that lets people support world mission from the comfort of their own homes in numerous different ways, for example by typing up the Bible in other languages to be digitised. Toilet Twinning is a way of supporting those who have nowhere to go to the toilet - you receive a framed photo of your sponsored toilet that you can keep in your bathroom... the list goes on and on and on. There are charities and initiatives for almost any issue in the world and it shouldn't be hard to find something that speaks to your heart. If money is not your gift, give time, or share your resources, but please, look beyond your own home and be compassionate to anyone who is in need and less fortunate than yourself. If you are concerned as to how your contribution will be used then pray that God uses your money or efforts but then trust it will be handled well. We were designed to be social creatures and we find true happiness not by looking inwards but by reaching outwards. You can rest in the knowledge that whatever you do for others, you do for Him:


"'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'


"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'


"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" ~ Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)

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