Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Degrees of charity

We know the importance of charity in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In 1st Corinthians 13:13 it says: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."  That makes it pretty clear that charity is huge, when you consider how important hope and faith are.  Moroni 7:46 corroborates this: "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".  Doctrine and Covenants 88:125 says it in a positive way: "And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace."  Charity is something we need to develop.

Possibly a way to measure where we are with the development of charity in our lives is the "Eight Degrees of Charity" which were penned by a medieval Jewish philosopher named Maimonides.  The following are his degrees of charity from lowest (least charitable) to highest.

1.  Giving to the poor unwillingly.
2.  Giving to the poor gladly with a smile.
3.  Giving to the poor person after being asked.
4.  Giving to the poor person before being asked.
5.  Giving without knowing who you give to even though the person receiving does know who has given to him.
6.  Knowing who you are giving to but they don't know you.
7.  Neither the giver nor the receiver knows the other.
8.  Help a person by providing a loan, making a partnership or finding/giving them a job and helping him until "he needs no longer". 

As I have thought about this I couldn't help but consider how we help people in the church.  Better known as the church welfare system, members give money to the ward (called fast offering) for the use of the Bishop to help people locally who are in need.  The system is set up to help people for short periods to get over an emergency situation.  Ideally those in need through a financial emergency will receive short term help until they again stand on their own to maintain their independence.  That situation coincides with #7 on the degrees of charity.  We give money to the ward for the Bishop to be able to help the needy.  They don't know who has given the money to the Bishop and we don't know who the Bishop helps with it.  Church employment specialists attempt to help with degree #8, to help them find a job, or better job so that they will no longer have financial problems.  That degree #8 help could also come in learning how to budget, finding more a more affordable place to live or learning strategies to live within a families income.   

The interesting parts, to me, of these degrees of charity are at the lower end where people give unwillingly.  I had to think about that for a minute because most seem to give willingly in the church or not give at all.  I was trying to imagine a situation where a need existed and a ward member would give unwillingly.  Still good that they gave but as we all know, doing the right willingly is much closer to how the Lord does things and there seem to be increased blessings for those that are able to provide an attitude of willingness to do or give as required. 

I found degree #2 intriguing because it seemed to me that all the higher degrees should include the smile.  On the other hand I imagined the person giving unwillingly frowning or grimacing which had some funny images in my mind.  I guess if I were giving unwillingly I might make some faces too. 

The progression up from there makes sense to me.  Willing to give but must be asked first.  I am often not a volunteering guy but when asked am willing to do whatever is needed.  This emphasized to me that maybe I need to be more free with volunteering.  Then the further progression of giving without knowing who and then they not knowing you gave was good too.  Those two in particular start taking out the control of the money (If I know who it is going to, I might feel some control over the money still.  Or its possible I would choose not to give to certain folks while being willing to give to others--so in essence not trusting the Lord and the Bishop with my money but wanting more control.) Alternately when the receiver knows it came from me I might receive some side benefit from giving--at least knowing that they are in my debt or sharing their gratitude with me.  All-n-all I found the degrees of giving a good gauge at looking at my own giving to see if I am progressing to giving the Lord's way. 

In reality, however; charity is a lot more than giving to the poor.  It is also an attitude of forgiving, kindness, love and caring all wrapped together.  So don't get tunnel vision thinking that charity is only about giving to the needy.  Charity is a way of life that smooths all our relationships, including our relationship with ourself that makes our relationship to God much more comfortable as well. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth...

1 comment:

  1. i really like learning about charity!!! and i think it's cool that it means so much more to us than it tends to mean to the world in general. i feel like serving a mission really gave me a glimpse of what having charity towards someone feels like and how GREAT it feels to be filled with charity!! it is such an AWESOME feeling!! it is hard to carry that feeling around all the time though :-/ i guess that's one of the challenges of this life: to be filled with charity through the everyday events of life and not just the times when you're decidedly dedicating your time to being charitable :) it's a good challenge!! i like working on it! :)


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