What It Really Means for Charity to Begin at Home
Published November 9, 2020
In the dictionary, the proverb “charity begins at home” is interpreted as:
one’s first responsibility is for the needs of one’s own family and friends.
This interpretation, I’m sure, is echoed by many people around the world. But if you take a closer look at this definition, you will notice how selfish it is. And for that very reason, it defeats the true purpose of charity. For Christians, Christian charity is emphasized in bible verses from the old to the new testament.
You see, charity is about compassion, empathy, and the will to make life better for others. Those should not be reserved only for the people you know. If anything, it should be given to those you don’t know.
Just think about this: if Nelson Mandela chose to serve the needs of his family first rather than his fellowmen, the apartheid would still probably be in effect. If Mother Teresa chose to help her friends and family first, many people around the world would still be suffering. Even the bible teaches us that we should love all people as though they are our brothers and sisters.
However, this is not to say that this proverb is wrong. I’m saying that our interpretation of it is slightly off course and it’s high time we correct it.
What “Charity Begins at Home” Really Means
The phrase “charity begins at home” is said to first appear in writing in a 1642 book by Sir Thomas Browne. Yet the exact origin of the phrase is still debated. Though many people agree that it is derived from this bible verse:
But if any widow has children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. – 1 Timothy 5:4
But doesn’t this verse just reaffirm that we should put the needs of our family and friends before others? Not really. Besides, there’s nowhere in this verse that suggests that.
What this verse tells us is that we should learn to practice piety at home. And it’s impossible to show piety without learning the virtue of charity.
So there you have it. What the phrase “charity begins at home” really means is exactly what it literally says: charity should start at home. It means that we should be charitable starting with the people at home – our family and the people that we interact with every day. Simple things like being there when they need someone to talk to, sharing your food with them, or comforting them when they’re not feeling well. These simple gestures are a great way to begin practicing charity. But it does not necessarily mean prioritizing their needs above others.
You can help others even while helping your family. It’s very much possible to help someone in need without depriving your family. If you’ll ever have a “priority” when it comes to charity, make sure that the first ones on your list should be those who need it the most. Not who you love the most.
Your family should just serve as a starting point and not the be-all-end-all of your charity efforts. Yes, charity begins at home but it should not end there. Do not use this proverb as an excuse not to extend a helping hand outside of your circle.
Why Charity Should Begin at Home
There’s a bible verse that perfectly explains why charity should begin at home:
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
A child’s moral values are formed by what they see around them. They absorb and mimic everything the adults do. So if we want them to grow up charitable and with a strong sense of compassion towards others, we need to practice it around them.
There’s no better place to do this than in our own homes. It’s where the child’s character is molded. It’s where they gain a sense of what is right and wrong. If you show them the importance of charity while still young, they’ll cherish those values as they grow up.
Remember that our children are the inheritors of this planet. So what we teach them today will determine the kind of future our world will have.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer and devoted Christian. She has a passion for writing about topics related to morality and helping the poor and homeless. She is the lead author for the Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen blog.
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