Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Preliminary Thoughts on Charity I

Charity seems a lot like humility. Those who have it do not brag about it; those who brag about it do not have it. In talking about humility, Elder Marlin K. Jensen noted:
Consciously trying to acquire humility is also problematic. I remember once hearing one of my colleagues in the Seventy [Albert Choules Jr.] say about humility that “if you think you have it, you don’t.” He suggested we should try to develop humility and be sure we didn’t know when we got it, and then we would have it. But if we ever thought we had it, we wouldn’t.
I think about this when people claim to be charitable or to be more charitable than others, especially when I have never thought of them as charitable in the first place.

On the face of it, a claim that one is more charitable than others cannot be charitable. Charity "rejoiceth not in iniquity" (1 Corinthians 13:6). For an individual to brag that they are more charitable than another is to rejoice in the other's iniquity (of not being charitable, or sufficiently charitable). This observation does not necessarily apply to third party comparisons. For person A to say that person B is more charitable than person C says nothing about whether person A is charitable. For person D to say that he is more charitable than person E is not a charitable act. Besides, charitable individuals have no reason to brag because "charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" (1 Corinthians 13:4).

In charity, the proof is not in our words---it is not how charitable we claim to be, or think we are, or claim that we will be if the occasion arises---but in our deeds. After all, "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). To see some who pride themselves on their magnanimity to their enemies while treating their friends like dirt undermines those very claims to magnanimity (see 1 Timothy 5:8). Jesus, after all, did not say, "Love your enemies and hate your friends." Such is not charity.