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The Seven Christian Virtues – 3: Charity


We are repeating this series on the antidote to the seven deadly sins on Sundays over the summer. This article was first published on April 18, 2018.

ONE of Jesus’s most important exhortations was to help the poor and the needy. Central to the Christian life is helping those less blessed than you are. Everything you have comes from God, so those in need have been given less. It is up to you to address that balance with a feeling of immense gratitude for all you have been given through the grace of God.

Charity, though, is voluntary. Forced charity does not compensate for a greedy soul, and nor does calculated charity. Charity is not a virtue just for its material value but also for what it says about that person’s soul. The charitable person is grateful for all he has and wants to share it with those less fortunate.

The Catholic Church was one of the most virulent and effective opponents of Communism. The Church does not deny the inequality of a capitalist society but the solution is not to take others’ money and distribute it as you see fit. More important than a system of taxation is a moral people, who will take it upon themselves to carry out charitable actions like Edmund Burke’s ‘little platoons’.

Charity is a state of mind, a mode of existence. It’s not just giving money to the poor but giving that annoying colleague’s barbed comment the benefit of the doubt. ‘Perhaps he didn’t mean it that way’ or ‘I’m sure I misheard her’. It’s also giving your time, listening to the woes of your friend who always talks too much after a pint or visiting a grandparent who tells the same stories.

The political world is uncharitable. How many careers have we seen ruined over a wayward comment or tweet? How many people have been wrongly accused of something? Had the worst possible interpretation of their actions thrown in their faces? To be charitable is to do more than just give money. It is to give yourself and your time.

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Fionn Shiner
Fionn Shiner
Fionn Shiner is a London-based writer who has written for the Spectator, the Daily Mirror, Private Eye and more. His day job is Press and Parliamentary Officer for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

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