The Lost Art of Charity



money-giftNoah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines CHARITY as: “In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good.” Note that the definition given here doesn’t just apply to those in need or who are helpless. Today, when charity is brought up, that is what most people think of. However, charity can be as simple as helping a neighbor rake their yard – to do good for others.

Unfortunately, in today’s society many Americans have a mentality of selfishness. We are so concerned with accumulating stuff that we fail to see that even the smallest donation of our time can be considered charity. It doesn’t have to be money. But it is because of this culture of selfishness that the government has found reason and opportunity to step in. When we as a people turn our backs on our fellow man and fail to help them with a “hand up” in a time of need – the government then steps in to take our place and offers a “hand out”. See the difference?

I prefer to live by the simple principle that I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. The government cannot force me to be charitable. Charity has to come from the heart. It cannot come from government. In a time of economic trouble, it is up to each one of us to step up and help those in need – of our own accord – not because the government feels they must take from someone who has and given it to someone who doesn’t. We are each able to make that decision on our own, to give to whomever or whatever we feel inclined to. If we each would have “love, benevolence and good will toward our fellow man” – imagine how it would change our country!

Here is a quote from former President Grover Cleveland (D) which sums up my thoughts:

“I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. The lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

President Cleveland understood that in times of need, the involvement of the government can create a dangerous precedent. And it has! We now have generations of Americans who believe that they deserve a certain amount of help from the government when something goes wrong. That was not the intention of our Founding Fathers. Our happiness and financial well-being is not a responsibility of the federal government. However, over time, it has expanded and overstepped its boundaries and has assumed the role of caretaker. For some that may give a warm fuzzy feeling to think that our federal government is taking care of millions of people out of the goodness of its heart. However, that is not the case. George Washington said it best when he said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.”

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