What Does Charity Mean In The Bible? A Biblical Definition of Charity

Have you ever just stopped and thought about the current state of our world? If you haven’t, it would be wise for you to do so! When you turn on the news it seems all you see is pain; war, murder, infidelity, and crime are on every news report. But, every once in a while there is an inspiring story that warms the hearts of many and gives hope to those who have lost it due to living in this world. The Bible is very similar in this regard. Much of what’s included in the Bible is bad; people die, sin abounds, and various crimes are committed. Yet, amidst all of that there is the message of hope. Despite all of the evil, charity is often illuminated within the pages. But, what does charity mean in the Bible? Like usual, to find out, we must look into the Word of God and see where charity is talked about.

2 Corinthians 9:7 “so let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

In the Bible, much like what we would believe today, charity is equated with giving. To be charitable, literally, would mean to be a giver. In the context of 2 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul is talking about money; however, charity is never limited to money within the Bible. Regardless, the Bible does tell us to bless others as much as we can. Yet, it must be done cheerfully, otherwise it is meaningless. We should never feel obligated to be charitable—we should want to be! After all, Jesus was incredibly charitable to us.

Bible Definition of Charity

Proverbs 19:17 “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.”

Charity involves helping those who need it. Often times, it will be through giving tithes to a church or through handing someone in need some money. But, there are other ways to be charitable to the less fortunate, too. If we know someone in need, we can always buy the groceries, give some type of gift card, or pay for a bill that we know is coming up.

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”

In order to be charitable, it is also important to be hospitable. The two often go hand-in-hand. Hospitality means we are willing to open up our homes and lives to those that need it. It doesn’t mean that we have to allow strangers to sleep in our homes, but it does mean we are to be friendly, compassionate, and kind to anybody around us—including strangers!

Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

This is a perfect definition of charity found in the Bible. Again, it doesn’t necessarily mean money has to be given (although that’s certainly included). The fact is, it’s far greater than just handing out money or tithing—it goes deep into our hearts. If we are a charitable person, we will start caring for other people more than we care for ourselves. We will start wanting to listen to other people’s troubles more than we like to speak about our own. In other words, to be charitable according to the Bible is to be a sacrificial giver of every part of our life, from our money to our time.

Conclusion

To see what charity looks like in the Bible, look no further than Jesus Christ. It is through His life that you see the epitome of charity. He did not worry about his own life, career, or popularity. What he did care about, however, was people. In John 15:13, Jesus even claimed: “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” That is the greatest charity known to man, and Jesus performed it by dying on the cross for all of us. Love is what prompted his charity. Without love, charity is nothing more than a good deed done for some type of selfish reason (1 Corinthians 13 showcases that beautifully). So, if you really want to know what the biblical definition of charity is, look to Jesus!

Article By Michael Krauzer

Michael Krauszer is the founder of ChristianLitReview.com, a website dedicated to providing a Christian perspective on all forms of literature. Additionally, Michael has been a full-time staff member at Calvary Chapel Old Bridge for the last four years, working as a Ministry Assistant and Pastoral Intern. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from The College of New Jersey and is currently in pursuit of his MA in Theological Studies from Veritas Evangelical Seminary. Michael is also a Christian freelance writer and you can find some of his writing at FaithAndEntertainment. Visit Michael’s Facebook page here: Christian Literature Review

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  • Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    You’re whitewashing over a whole bunch more biblical evil.

    I’ve never heard anybody on the news express that they wanted to mass murder people who were living normal lives having weddings, enjoying meals, buying groceries, selling flowers, planting trees, and building houses.

    Jesus did.

    Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of
    the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given
    in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and
    destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were
    eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the
    day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and
    destroyed them all. ~Paranoid-Delugional Jesus

    All because Jesus hated people. For he hated life itself, and said so, explicitly.

    If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and
    children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person
    cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26
    anyone who hates their life in this
    world will keep it for eternal life John 12:25

    I wouldn’t call Jesus’ psychopathic hatred of life and people “charity,” by any stretch of definition.

    • You make valid points, Isaac. I do not want to disregard how you feel and what your viewpoint is. Obviously, I cannot offer a full rebuttal to you via the web, but I would caution you with how you were interpreting the two verses that you cited.

      The days of Noah were described as an evil time, not one where people were “living normal lives” and “enjoying meals.” Don’t take my word for it, go back to the source. Read the Genesis account and you will better understand what it was Jesus was describing.

      Secondly, you are misreading the Bible verses where Jesus talked about hating father and mother, etc. See the following short article: http://www.gotquestions.org/hate-father-mother.html

      Is there Evil that is found within the Bible? Yes. But that was a part of recording the history of what was truly happening, not condoning it. Jesus never commanded people to go out and slaughter people. He did, however, command them to go out and teach the world.

      • Isaac Edward Leibowitz

        I’m not misreading the Bible. You are. You think it was magically “inspired” and cannot have any conflicting or contradictory viewpoints. I’m just reading it for what it means. Hate means hate. I’m not going to invent rationalizations (make excuses) for the plain meaning of the words.

        • That is not necessarily true, though. First off, you do not know my views on the inspiration of Scripture–I never stated it in any of my articles. Secondly, it’s not necessarily true that “hate means hate.” For example, people can use figures of speech to emphasize a point. I can say “I hate Pumpkin Pie,” but am I truly hating it, or is it just my way of emphasizing my point that I do not like it and don’t want to eat it?

          Furthermore, the Bible that you are quoting from is a translation. As I’m sure you know, the original language of the New Testament was Greek. In Greek, this would be a meaning of the word “hate” that is used in the verse you mentioned: “of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another, Mat 6:24; and Luk 16:13, as to the impossibility of serving two masters; Luk 14:26, as to the claims of parents relatively to those of Christ; Jhn 12:25, of disregard for one’s life relatively to the claims of Christ; Eph 5:29, negatively, of one’s flesh, i.e. of one’s own, and therefore a man’s wife as one with him.”

          In other words, Jesus is saying, in relation to himself and anybody else, you are to love him more. The emphasis is on making sure nothing becomes a hindrance to following him. In a more modern way, it is saying to give preference and priority to Jesus above all things.

          May I ask you a question? If you do not believe the Bible is true, then why read my article to begin with, let alone comment on it? What do you gain?

          • Isaac Edward Leibowitz

            You’re obfuscating and rationalizing; one does not need to be an expert to understand “hate.”

            Jesus hated. He hated enough to condemn anybody who disagreed with him to eternal torture. He hated people enough to stoop to a technique called “dehumanization,” calling people all sorts of filthy names like pig, dog, snake, etc. I think I well enough have a grasp of the word “hate” in the bible.

            Jesus wasn’t nice; in fact, much of his behavior, including his penchant for dehumanization, is pure evil.

            Dehumanization: The Lucifer Effect
            lucifereffect.com/dehumanization.htm

          • FloydAT

            Michael, you and I both know about the original languages and Bible translation. However, there are those who choose to criticize without knowledge because they reject God and His provision for salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says to ignore and reject such people (Titus 3:10-11). They do not care about the truth.

    • FloydAT

      Isaac, unfortunately, you do not have a firm grasp on biblical context or even basic reading skills based on your claims of Jesus and the contexts of the events you cite.

      You also show you have no grasp of the ancient languages of Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek for your rendering of the word “hate.”

      You have a right to read, but you do not have a right to misread or read into a text while ignoring the original languages, history, and the author’s intent. Furthermore, your rants are no more than ad hominem and show that you are incapable of forming a cogent argument.

      Consequently, your arguments are far from valid but irrational and without merit. You bring nothing to the discussion and even less to supporting your own arguments and claims.

      • Isaac Edward Leibowitz

        You’re obfuscating and rationalizing and making excuses; one does not need to be an expert in other languages to understand what “hate” means. Yours is the typical behavior of those who are irrational.

        • FloydAT

          Ad hominem does not help your argument

          • Well said 🙂

          • Isaac Edward Leibowitz

            Which is why I didn’t use it.

  • BCEL

    The scriptures can not be revealed by the vain traditions of man. We only fool our selves. Wrong interpertations, half truths at best are all we can muster with our sinful feeble minds. Isaiah 53:1 says
    Who has believed our report? (hearing of doctrine)and to whom is the arm of the Lord been revealed?
    We must consciously choose to give our life to the Lord for Him to change and heal , as He created us, and if we allow. He has a special purpose for each one of us. Otherwise He also allows us to go our own way, the consequences of our decisions are also ours.

    • Jack Wellman

      True. One does not come to believe in Jesus Christ (which is the point of this article) by empirical knowledge, but by God’s Spirit. If you are looking toward flesh and blood to prove this to you, you will never believe. It is not by books or empirical knowledge that God can be known but as Jesus Himself self, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 16:17), and “God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:9), so Jesus won’t be known by empirical evidence, because “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).