If you’ve ever wondered how many times the word “charity” is mentioned in the Bible, you’re not alone.
Charity, often used interchangeably with the word “love,” is a central theme in the Bible.
The concept of compassion is rooted in the idea of giving to those in need and helping others, and it’s a virtue that’s highly valued in Christianity.
According to the King James Bible, the word “charity” appears 28 times, all in the New Testament.
However, it’s important to note that the word “charity” is often translated as “love” in modern translations of the Bible.
In fact, the word “agape,” which is often used to describe the highest form of love, is sometimes translated as “charity” in the King James Bible.
While the number of times the word “charity” appears in the Bible may seem relatively small, the concept of generosity is woven throughout the text.
From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there are numerous examples of charitable acts and teachings on the importance of providing to those in need.
In this article, we’ll explore the biblical definition of generosity, examine how it is portrayed in the Bible, and discuss the importance of this virtue in Christianity.
- Charity is mentioned 28 times in the King James Bible, all in the New Testament.
- The word “charity” is often translated as “love” in modern translations of the Bible.
- The concept of charity is a central theme in the Bible, with countless examples of charitable acts and teachings on the significance of delivering to those in need.
Biblical Definition of Charity
Charity is a term that is often used in the Bible to describe the act of giving to those in need.
The scriptures imply that charity has two meanings, to love, and to give to those in need.
The Bible defines charity as the pure love of Christ, which is the love that Christ has for all people. It is a selfless love that is characterized by generosity, compassion, and mercy.
In the Bible, compassion is often used as a synonym for love. The Greek word for charity is “agape,” which is the same word used to describe the love of God.
This type of love is selfless and sacrificial and is characterized by giving to others without expecting anything in return.
Compassion is also closely linked to godliness and the love of God. In 1 John 4:8, it is written that “God is love,” and in 1 John 3:17, it is written that “if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
This implies that friendliness is an essential aspect of the Christian faith and that it is a way of expressing the love of God to others.
Charity is also linked to other Christian virtues, such as brotherly kindness and selflessness. In 2 Peter 1:5-7, it is written that “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
This indicates that charity is an essential aspect of Christian character and that it is something that should be practiced by all Christians.
Charity in the Old Testament
While the word “charity” is not explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, the concept of giving to those in need is present throughout the Hebrew Bible.
In Deuteronomy 15:7-8, it is written, “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.”
Abraham, considered the father of the Jewish people, is also known for his acts of charity. In Genesis 12:1-3, God promises to bless Abraham and make him a great nation.
In return, Abraham is commanded to be a blessing to others. Throughout his life, Abraham demonstrates his generosity and hospitality to strangers, including offering food and shelter to three angels who visit him in Genesis 18.
Many other stories in the Old Testament illustrate the importance of giving to those in need.
For instance, the book of Ruth tells the story of a widow who is cared for by her daughter-in-law, and the book of Job emphasizes the importance of helping the poor and needy.
While the term “charity” may not have been used in the Old Testament, the principles of giving and caring for others are woven throughout its pages.
Charity in the New Testament
According to 1 Corinthians 13, charity is the greatest of the three Christian virtues, which are faith, hope, and charity.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of compassion. He lived a life of compassion and service, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and forgiving sinners.
He taught his followers to love their neighbors as themselves and to care for the poor and marginalized.
The Apostle Paul also wrote extensively about friendliness in his letters to the early Christian communities.
In 1 Corinthians 13, he describes charity as patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, and not keeping a record of wrongs. He also emphasizes that goodwill never fails.
Other New Testament writers also mention generosity, including John, James, Peter, and Jude. In 1 John 3:17, John writes that if you have material possessions and see your brother in need but have no pity on him, how can the love of God be in you?
In Colossians 3:14, Paul writes that above all, put on clemency, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
In Titus 2:2, he encourages older men to be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, and in patience.
In Acts 9:36, we read about a woman named Dorcas, who was full of good works and acts of generosity. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, Jesus teaches that when we care for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned, we are caring for him.
Overall, charity is a central theme in the New Testament, emphasizing the importance of love, compassion, and service towards others.
As 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain faith, hope, and friendliness.
Charitable Acts in Bible Stories
The Bible is full of stories that illustrate the importance of charitable acts. One of the most well-known stories is that of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37.
In this story, a man is beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. Several people pass him by, but it is the Samaritan who stops to help him, even though Samaritans are despised by Jews.
This story teaches us the importance of showing kindness and compassion to strangers, regardless of their background.
Another story that emphasizes the importance of charitable acts is that of the widow’s mite, found in Mark 12:41-44.
In this tale, Jesus observes a poor widow who gives two small coins to the temple treasury, which was all she had.
Jesus praises her for her generosity, saying that she gave more than all the rich people who gave out of their abundance. This story teaches us that even small acts of generosity can have a big impact.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a parable about the final judgment, in which he separates the righteous from the unrighteous based on how they treat the poor and needy.
Those who fed the hungry gave drink to the thirsty, and cared for the sick and imprisoned are welcomed into eternal life, while those who did not are condemned. This story reminds us of the importance of using our material possessions to help those in need.
Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”
This verse emphasizes the idea that helping the poor is not just a good deed, but also a way of showing love and obedience to God. Similarly, Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
This verse reminds us that our relationship with God is strengthened when we show kindness and generosity to others.
In 1 John 3:17-18, we are reminded that true love is not just a feeling, but also involves action. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” This verse emphasizes the importance of not just talking about charity but actually doing it.
Charity in the Teachings of Jesus and Apostles
Charity is a central theme in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.
One of the most famous passages about charity is found in 1 Corinthians 13, often called the “Love Chapter.” Here, the Apostle Paul writes that even if you have all the gifts of the Spirit and do great works, if you don’t have kindliness, it’s all for nothing.
He describes charity as patient, kind, not envious or proud, not easily angered, and always seeking the truth.
Jesus himself taught about clemency in many of his parables, such as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), where he says that those who show compassion to others, such as feeding the hungry or visiting the sick, are actually doing it to him.
He also taught that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), and that we should give to the poor without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:35).
The Apostle John also wrote about charity in his epistles, saying that if we see someone in need and have the means to help them, we should not turn away, but show them the love of Christ (1 John 3:17).
Similarly, the Apostle Peter wrote that we should love one another deeply because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of people who showed charity to others, such as Dorcas in Acts 9:36, who made clothes for the poor, and the churches in Macedonia, who gave generously to support other believers (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
The Virtue of Charity in Christianity
As a Christian, you are likely familiar with the concept of charity. In fact, charity is considered one of the seven virtues in Christian theology.
According to Thomas Aquinas, compassion is “the friendship of man for God”, which “unites us to God”. It is considered the most excellent of the virtues.
Charity is often associated with love, and it is true that the two concepts are closely related. In fact, the word “charity” is often translated as “love” in modern translations of the Bible.
This is because compassion involves not only giving to those in need but also loving those around us.
One of the most famous passages in the Bible that discusses charity is 1 Corinthians 13. In this chapter, Paul describes the importance of love, saying that even if you have all the spiritual gifts and knowledge in the world, without love, it is all for nothing.
Charity is also closely tied to selflessness and generosity. As Christians, we are called to put others before ourselves and to give freely to those in need.
This is reflected in the commandments to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for the poor and marginalized.
In the gospels, Jesus himself is a perfect example of charity. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and cared for those who were outcast by society.
He taught his followers to do the same, to love one another as he loved them.
As we strive for spiritual growth and perfectness, we should seek to cultivate the virtues of charity, selflessness, and brotherly kindness in our lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the biblical definition of ‘charity’?
The biblical definition of ‘charity’ is twofold: to love and to give to those in need. The concept of ‘goodwill’ is closely tied to the idea of selflessness and generosity towards others.
What is the significance of ‘charity’ in 1 Corinthians 13?
In 1 Corinthians 13, ‘charity’ is described as the greatest of all virtues. It is emphasized as a key component of Christian love and is said to be necessary for all actions, even those that are seemingly insignificant.
How does ‘charity’ relate to the concept of ‘love’ in the Bible?
‘Charity’ and ‘love’ are closely related concepts in the Bible. Both are characterized by selflessness and a willingness to put the needs of others before our own. ‘Charity’ is often used as a synonym for ‘love’ in modern translations of the Bible.