What role should charity play in our lives?
Answer: “O CHILDREN OF
DUST! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest
heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them
of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of
Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.”
(Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith)
The answer to this question will naturally depend on our definition of
charity. In modern English, charity is usually synonymous with
generosity, giving to the poor and helping those who are less fortunate
than ourselves, either morally or monetarily.
In the Christian tradition, the word has subtler shades of meaning,
which tie the meaning of charity (caritas) to divine love.
Baha’is would certainly agree with this view, or with equivalent views
of charity (generosity, compassion, loving-kindness, etc.) in the
scriptures of any of the world’s great religions. The world’s religions
are one when it comes to their ethical teachings, but their theologies
are another story.
For Baha’is, the word charity is synonymous with generosity, goodness
and the love of God, the latter being the foundation of all divine
Charity takes many forms. It would involve all of feeding and serving
the poor, aiding the destitute, relieving their suffering,
volunteerism, offering hospitality to the homeless, listening to the
plight of the downtrodden, giving in cash or in kind to those in need.
In Western society, particularly within the upper echelons of the
corporate world, greed has become shamelessly touted as a virtue. That
we have come to such a perverse inversion of generosity and greed is
one of the many symptoms of a widespread social and spiritual sickness.
If charity were practised universally, we would not be witnessing the
scandalous extremes of wealth and poverty in which less than one per
cent of the world’s population possesses more than 90 per cent of the
wealth. Such inequalities should both voluntarily and legislatively
find their way to extinction.
The charitable heart cannot but be associated with the compassionate
heart. The charitable heart is afflicted by the sight of suffering
humanity and does what it can to relieve such