Sunday, January 30

Charity and the Institutions of Man (Part 2)

To Who do we give charity? Toward which of our brethren amongst us should we be moved by our charitable impulse to act? We have broken our inquiry into Charity and how that fits in with our institutions into four questions (part one here). The first for us to attack is who might be the recipients of charity. In this investigation, we will begin with secular arguments, pass to those based on teachings from scripture, and then attempt to tie it together neatly (wish me luck!). Be warned, as a Christian, I'm going to couch my secular arguments to arrive at the same conclusion as those based on scripture (and yes, I'll admit I wrote the later arguments first).

Forming a secular idea of Charity is difficult, for Charity is largely a Christian concept. Kant informs us in The Metaphysics of Morals that we should not take as a moral axiom that which we cannot universally apply. Those principles most easily find that all people should give of charity to their neighbors and all should receive of charity.

Leviticus tells us to "love your neighbor" and Jesus affirms this as belonging to the heart of the Law. Charity consists of putting that command into practice. From this it is clear who is to receive charity. Each of our neighbors should receive of our love, not just the downtrodden, not just the poor, but everyone. All of us are called to give of Charity to our neighbors, not just those who are economically well endowed. Economic well being should not be a factor in determining whether our neighbor is eligible for charity. Equally of course, should race, creed, or any other of the hundred dividing lines we draw to distinguish each other be used to judge who might receive charity.

Alas, it turns out then, the first question, To Who we give charity does not go far to separate the givers from the receivers. On the other hand, the answer we arrived at, is not the answer that often comes first to mind when the question of who deserves our charity is asked, so perhaps this meditation is not in vain.