Charity is a transformational force, a liberating word and indeed the most powerful and most influential word. Through charity we are liberated from the bondage of selfish, tribalism and self-centered stagnation. Charity is the only channel through which we demonstrate our power of giving. It is the only force that can bring about the long expected transformations in our society. Through charity we are not just influencing the lives of others we are also becoming influential in the midst of others. Our strength lies in giving whereas our weakness lies in greed and grabbing.
St. James describes charity as the essence of pure religion. According to him, ” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). Charity is therefore the only way to ascertain whether one’s religion is authentic or not. Any religious group that does not practice charity is not a pure one. Charity purifies our religion.
Pope Francis describes charity as the soul of the Church mission: “Charity is at the heart of the Church, it is the reason for its action, the soul of its mission.” if charity is at the heart of the church, as the Holy Father declares, it means that the church derives its existence through charity. Just as human beings cannot exist without a soul, the church cannot exist without charity. Charity is therefore the essence of the Church. The Church cannot be separated from charity. In fact, where there is church there is charity and where there is charity there is church.
The Qur’an recommends charity for those who are facing hardship: “And if someone is in hardship, then let there be postponement until a time of ease. But if you give from your right as charity, then it is better for you, if you only knew” (Surah 2:280). Charity is not just the better thing one can do it is also the best thing anyone can do. With charity we can easily pull people out of their hardship and bondage.
Surah 3:92 went as far as stating that good reward is for those who are willing to spend in the way of Allah. The way of Allah is, of course, the way of charity: “Never will you attain the good reward until you spend in the way of Allah from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is knowing of it.” Every act of charity must be rewarded – especially by Allah. If you really want to attain a good reward then you must be ready to practice charity.
Considering the importance and indispensable role of charity and also in commemoration of the death anniversary of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the woman who spent her life caring for the poorest of the poor, the UN General Assembly has declared September 5th as International Day of Charity. With this declaration the UN encourages charity donations in order to highlight the importance of charity.
In the Sustainable Development Goal the United Nations recognizes that the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. “The Agenda also calls for a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. It also acknowledges the role of the diverse private sector, ranging from micro-enterprises to cooperatives to multinationals, and that of civil society organizations and philanthropic organizations in the implementation of the new Agenda.” One of the ways to achieve this goal is through charity. All the charitable organizations have a vital role to play in the eradication of poverty. Religious and political bodies equally have a role to play. In fact, if we must bring poverty to an end, then all hands must be on deck.
While commenting on the gospel of Matthew 25:31-40 Mother Teresa, the woman whose name is identical with Charity, declares, “At the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by: I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in. Hungry, not only for bread— but hungry for love. Naked, not only for clothing— but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless, not only for want of a home of bricks— but homeless because of rejection. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.”
For Mother Teresa, therefore, Charity according to our Lord Jesus Christ is the basis of our final judgment. Heaven is not interested in our academic qualification, it is not interested in our titles. Heaven is not even interested in our political or religious position – heaven is only interested in how many lives we are able to touch. And how many souls we succeeded in winning into heaven. Charity remains the best qualification for heavenly kingdom.
Among all the three virtues that will last charity remains the greatest. In his first letter to the Corinthians 13:13, St. Paul wrote, “Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.” In the gospel of Matthew 22:36-40, one of the Pharisees came to our Lord Jesus Christ and asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” With this, it is obvious that charity is not just one of the commandments, it is in fact, the greatest commandment.
Charity is the easiest way to attain perfection. In the gospel of Matthew 5:43-48, our Lord Jesus Christ declares, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God’s perfection is demonstrated in his love for all. God does not discriminate. Even the worst sinner, the worst enemies of God also enjoy the free gift of God. Only God can do this and that is why He is a Perfect Being. Only Him can do what no man can do.
We are all children of God and the best way to prove to the world that we are sons and daughters of the Most High God is by our love and act of charity. This love is not just limited to our friends and family members. We are expected to love, even our enemies. The love of our enemies may be difficult but according to this passage it is the easiest way to attain perfect. If we want to attain perfection then we must be ready to love as our heavenly Father loves. We must learn how to give because our heavenly Father is a giver. He is in fact, the best giver the world has ever known. He is the Most Generous Being we can think of. We are called to be generous as our heavenly Father is generous.
Charity is the channel through which we encounter God through our fellow human beings. As St. John rightly wrote in his first epistle, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If God is love and we are children of God it means therefore that we are children of love. We are called to live and die for love.
In a nutshell, Charity is the key that locks the gate of poverty and opens the gate of prosperity. It is the chain that closes the gap between the poor and the rich. Above all, It is the force that closes the gate of hellfire and opens the gate of heaven. With charity your salvation is guaranteed and it shall be well with you in Jesus name – Amen!