Charity Begins at Home

First published March 2017

The Reverend John Chandler reflects on a well-known phrase and shows how its meaning is so much bigger than it first implies.

Charity begins at home - Oh yes, I truly believe that; but in its original meaning! You see, charity is quite an old word, which like many others in our language has changed its meaning over the centuries. It’s all about our true nature, deep inside (character) becoming our outgoing, attractive nature (charisma) showing everyone that we really do care – it’s a matter of loving deeply from the very heart of our being (cardiac!).

Let me put it another way – love begins with you. And me. You’ve heard of the Biblical phrase ‘faith, hope & charity’? Well, more modern translations go back to the original meaning. ‘Now, these three remain – faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13).

March is an interesting month for showing the depth of that love. Firstly, Lent begins on 1st March, and we often talk of giving things up for Lent. Notice how not doing something is described as giving things up, not storing things up! Being charitable (loving to others in many ways, including being generous with money) is a wonderful Lenten discipline, and what better way to respond to God’s sacrificial love for us than by developing and living out our loving nature in the community.

Secondly, March 26th is Mothering Sunday, and there are many traditions surrounding the day. For instance, when people had moved away from home, this was the day they went back to their mother village, and to their mother Church. When girls were away from home in service, as maids or cooks in a large house, they were allowed to go back to their mothers on this day. In the early days of the industrial revolution, young workers had a rare Sunday off to go home, and they picked flowers from the roadside to take to their mothers – the source of their love. The mother Church helped by giving flowers to the children to present to their mums – and we still do!

So why not continue the old tradition – come to Mother Church on Mothering Sunday, honour mothers and all who have sustained us over the years, and show our loving, charitable nature as a matter of course. Yes, charity (love) ‘begins’ at home, not ends there; where love is shared, opportunities are endless!

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