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Charity begins at Home

Recently, when talking about giving to charity, someone complained about the injustice of huge amounts of aid given by the government and charities to overseas causes when many people in this country are struggling to get by, finishing by saying ‘charity begins at home’,

In fact over the past few years the UK has drastically decreased its foreign aid giving and almost abandoned the commitments we have consistently made over years to play our part in addressing world poverty.

But what about that old chestnut ‘charity begins at home’ pulled out whenever a church, charity or government agency tries to give money to help those not in the UK?

Interestingly, in the book where it was first used in 1642, the author uses the phase to argue against it! The idea being that we learn to be compassionate and charitable people at home; this then grows as we exercise it outside the home. Saying that ‘charity may begin at home but it should not end there’!

The Bible itself is pretty clear that we are called to love not just our family and our neighbours, but even our enemies.( Matt 5:44) In the Old Testament their laws laid a foundation for justice and generosity for the marginalised, widows, orphans and foreigners. (Deut 15:7-11)

What we usually mean by charity today (donating to the needy) doesn’t make any sense with the saying. Providing for the welfare of the people in your house is by definition NOT charity.

So before you are tempted to quote this saying, don’t use it as an excuse to be mean and keep everything simply for those around you. Think carefully about how we can share our resources for the good of all.

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