Virtues and views, 7 sins and friends, Blogging from A to Z. Last year I chose gluttony for the letter g, but greed is also there. Charity is listed as the virtue to oppose the sin of greed. How interesting, because I did not have those paired! I think of generosity as the opposite of greed, but I do understand placing charity there.
Webster 1913 Greed:
An eager desire or longing; greediness; as, a greed of gain.
Dictionary.com 2017 Greed:
Webster 1913 Charity
1. Love; universal benevolence; good will.
Now abideth faith, hope, charity, three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1. Cor. xiii. 13.
They, at least, are little to be envied, in whose hearts the great charities . . . lie dead. Ruskin.
With malice towards none, with charity for all. Lincoln.
2. Liberality in judging of men and their actions; a disposition which inclines men to put the best construction on the words and actions of others.
The highest exercise of charity is charity towards the uncharitable. Buckminster.
3. Liberality to the poor and the suffering, to benevolent institutions, or to worthy causes; generosity.
The heathen poet, in commending the charity of Dido to the Trojans, spake like a Christian. Dryden.
4. Whatever is bestowed gratuitously on the needy or suffering for their relief; alms; any act of kindness.
She did ill then to refuse her a charity. L’Estrange.
5. A charitable institution, or a gift to create and support such an institution; as, Lady Margaret’s charity.
6. pl. Law Eleemosynary appointments [grants or devises] including relief of the poor or friendless, education, religious culture, and public institutions.
The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless, Are scattered at the feet of man like flowers. Wordsworth.
So why is charity the virtue to balance greed? I am thinking of the Buddhist prayer: may all beings be safe. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings experience loving kindness. May all beings be free.
All beings. Not just the virtuous, not just the good, not the people of one race or one religion or one country. All beings and I think that is what charity and love really are. When we say “Not those kind of people!” we are separating and discriminating and labeling and we choose to keep charity from them: that is greed, too. More for us, less for them. They are bad, wrong, different, so we don’t have to share with them.
The Buddhist prayer is to be practiced towards a loved one, then a friend, then an acquaintance, then a stranger, someone we dislike, some one who has hurt us, and someone that we think (and here is gossip) is evil….progressively harder.
But what if someone HAS hurt us? How do we practice charity there? Do we have to?
I return to a sermon on forgiveness: here, by Reverend Bruce Bode:
“Says Dr. Lewis Smedes in his book, Forgive and Forget:
When you forgive, you heal your hate for the person who created that reality. But you do not change the facts. And you do not undo all of their consequences. The dead stay dead; the wounded are often still crippled.”
Reverend Bode goes on to say:
“While I’m talking about what forgiveness is not, let me also make a distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. The distinction is this: forgiveness opens the possibility of reconciliation with another, but it does not necessarily lead to reconciliation, and it is certainly not the same thing as reconciliation.
One can forgive and not reconcile. This is because reconciliation demands something from the other side, whereas forgiveness has to do with an internal process within a person.”
Charity, then, is more complicated than generosity, than romantic love, than love for one’s family and friends and community. It is the ideal of loving everyone, even those who have harmed us. Our ideal is for charity and forgiveness: and a hope for reconciliation. Charity is the opposite of greed.