Charity has several meanings, from the commonly used and understood, to the abstract and technical:
- Charity, as used most commonly, refers to generosity, especially the giving of time or resources without the expectation of Earthly reward. The noun refers to an institution that engages in such behavior.
- Charity: as a Christian virtue. This is enumerated among the Divine virtues by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13. It is the greatest of the three, included with hope and faith. In this sense, charity refers to a divinely infused love, unlimited and directed toward Man and toward God.
- Charity is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them.
Charity and Religion
Charity is important to most religions, and is practiced by both religious and secular people and organizations.
- Christianity: the Catholic theologic sense is mentioned above. Most Christian faiths require practitioners to give of themselves as they are able, following the command of Jesus in Luke 6:30 (KJV): "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask [them] not again." Also, the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 shows the necessity of charity to salvation. Many Christian denominations ask for a tithe, or one-tenth of the income, to go to the church, a portion of which is then given to charity outside of the church. No specific figure is given for how much to give outside of the church body.
- Islam: charity ('زكاة', 'zakat', in Arabic) is one of the Five Pillars of the religion. A tithe of money (normally 2.5%) is given to help the poorest in society. Implementation of this pillar in Muslim countries is spotty at best.
- Judaism: Judaism uses the concept of tzedakah, or righteousness. The theology behind this is quite layered and complex.
In both the Christian and Islamic faiths, charity is not considered righteous if done to enhance the giver's reputation. Thus private and discreet charity is prompted by love not status.
- Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 6:1 (Christian Scripture from the Bible)
- If you give alms openly, it is well; but if you do it secretly and give to the poor, that is better. Qur-an 2:271a (Islamic Scripture)
For libertarians, charity is the choice of the individual, as any societal intervention must be voluntary, and based on the decision of the individual. It goes against libertarian belief to tax people involuntarily and redistribute wealth as "charity".
United States cities with the highest volunteer participation in religious venues
- Salt Lake City 21.8%
- Charlotte 15.9%
- Minneapolis/St. Paul 14.6%
- Omaha 14.6%
- Nashville, 14.5%
- Louisville 14.5%
- Tulsa 13.6%
- Kansas City 12.9%
- Dallas 12.2%
- Oklahoma City 11.9%
Americans have a long tradition of charitable giving and volunteerism
The United States is “a land of charity,” says Arthur Brooks, an expert on philanthropy and a professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, who sees charitable giving and volunteerism as the signal characteristic of Americans. Americans increased their charitable donations significantly in 2006 to more than $295 billion—a record, according to a study released June 25 by the Giving USA Foundation, which reports on charitable contributions. The overwhelming majority of this money was donated by individuals, not corporations or foundations, according to the chairman of Giving USA, Richard Jolly. Donations from individuals, including bequests, accounted for 83.3 percent of total giving last year, or $245.8 billion, he told USINFO.
Higher faith-based giving in the US explains 60% of the difference in proportion of GDP given to charity in the US and the UK. Religion giving accounts for a third of US charity donations, compared to 13% in the UK.
Charity and irreligion
Levels of giving per country
The following is a table of national giving levels as a percentage of GDP.
|Country||Level of Giving as % of GDP|
|Republic of Ireland||0.47|
The UK is especially proactive with donating to overseas charities, compromising 13% of total giving. In contrast, only 3% of US contributions goes to international
The lower levels of giving in some European countries reflects an expectation that social services should be provided through socialist state institutions. There is also an general inverse relationship between the rate of income tax and the level of giving.
- Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV)
- Ask Dr. Ruwart: Libertarians and Taxation"
- Christianity Today, Sept. 2007, Pg. 19
- International Comparisons of Charitable Giving (November 2006) Briefing Paper, Charities Aid Foundation