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Charity / Bouguereau

Charity means generosity, typically in a helpful way to those in greater need. The United States is by far the most charitable nation in the world, as a percentage of its GDP and in absolute terms. Charity is uniquely conservative -- liberals are far less charitable -- and charity has religious significance.

  • Charity is the giving of time or resources without the expectation of Earthly reward.[1]
  • Charity - first mentioned in the Bible: Exodus 25:2; 35:5 at Jews' constructing the Tabernacle,[2] and Deuteronomy 15:7-11 giving to the poor, is a Christian virtue.[3] 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 considered a benefit 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 is considered a benefit 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 is essential to the success of free enterprise. Charity is the "other side of the coin," without which free enterprise could collapse for exploiting too many people while failing to help those unable to pay for assistance.

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[4] 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.[5]
  • Judaism: Judaism uses the concept of tzedakah, or righteousness[6]. 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)

In Judaism, any act of kindness [Chessed[7]] is counted of high value, but there are vast differences depending on intentions. The obligation to give to the poor is on each and every one. When doing that, the highest value is the way one gives - how he makes the poor person feel. And if one gives with a sour manner one loses the reward (Shulchan Aruch YD:248-9. Based on the verse in Det. 15:10).

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 redistributes wealth as "charity".[8]

United States cities with the highest volunteer participation in religious venues

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.[10]

Higher faith-based giving in the US explains 60% of the difference in the 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.[11]

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
USA 1.67
UK 0.73
Canada 0.72
Australia 0.69
South Africa 0.64
Republic of Ireland 0.47
Netherlands 0.45
Singapore 0.29
New Zealand 0.29
Turkey 0.23
Germany 0.22
France 0.14

The UK is especially proactive with donating to overseas charities, compromising 13% of total giving. In contrast, only 3% of US contributions go to international

The lower levels of giving in some European countries reflect an expectation that social services should be provided through socialist state institutions. There is also a general inverse relationship between the rate of income tax and the level of giving.[11]

See also


  2. Hila Ratzabi, What Was the Tabernacle (Mishkan)?. A portable sanctuary in the wilderness.
  4. Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV)
  8. Ask Dr. Ruwart: Libertarians and Taxation"
  9. Christianity Today, Sept. 2007, Pg. 19
  11. 11.0 11.1 International Comparisons of Charitable Giving (November 2006) Briefing Paper, Charities Aid Foundation