And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Could the apostles have truly meant that the greatest, most lasting principle in the entire universe would be to give spare change out of our excess to ease the suffering of the very poorest?
Or was it something more, something much deeper?
Perhaps we should view charity as the outpouring of those who’ve witnessed and become something different, who’ve moved aside from the debilitating numbness of empire-building of the dominant culture long enough to recognize the needs and assets not only of themselves and their shared community but extend it outside of themselves. These relationships organically work to inject selfless justice to the oppressed and then back to the self.
When such a transformation happens, those who have been touched are no longer concerned with frivolous arguments about “forcing” people to be charitable. Because true charity understands that all of our actions and inactions are interconnected, it understands the violence of poverty first-hand, and it understands that wealth accumulation is theft.
Charity understands the deep, intricate indebtedness we have to each other. Charity rejects the libertarian argument that taxation that lessens income inequality is theft, but understands that income inequality itself is greed and therefore theft. And therefore murder.
Charity looks around and sees millions of homeless families, men, women, children. She sees all of the discarded veterans, the abused workers, hungry children, shamed school teachers, overburdened social workers, the rejected differently-abled, the untouchables, not as what society sees them as – the names and titles listed above – but as human beings worthy of human dignity, love, respect, and full access to quality food, healthcare, housing, protection, and clothing.
This form of charity runs in stark contrast to greed. Where greed feels entitled to possess property at others’ expense, charity seeks to share, to make sure none is discarded. With true charity, there is no room for greed.
Current practices of “charity” however, are actually falsified extensions of greed. Charitable foundations are really nice-looking tax shelters, allowing estates to save millions upon millions of dollars each year while only spending a portion of that in order to game the non-profit world while earning respectability in their corporate endeavors (read: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded). However, if a service provider for the poor needs money to help the very ones discarded by the corporate-produced economic system, it will most likely need to go through these corporate-pr0duced foundations.
The virtue of charity needs to be reevaluated, not for what it supposedly means, but for what it is opposed to and dreams of.