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Charity behavior is a form of prosocial behavior focused on the giving of help to those in need.
Etymology[edit | edit source]
Originally in Latin the word caritas meant preciousness, dearness, high price. From this, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agapē, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others, such as the love of God. This much wider concept is the meaning of the word charity in the Christian triplet "faith, hope and charity", and notably as used by the King James Version of the Bible in its translation of St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians. However the English word more generally used for this concept, both before and since (and by the KJV at other passages), is the more direct love. (See the article Charity (virtue))
St Paul's agapē was specifically not primarily about good works and giving to the poor. (And though I feed the poor with all my goods, and though I give my body, that I be burned, and have not love [agapē], it profiteth me nothing - 1 Cor 13:3, Geneva translation, 1560). But in English the word charity has steadily acquired this as its primary meaning since being first used in this sense in Old French at least as long ago as the year 1200.
Almsgiving[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Alms
Almsgiving, the act of giving money, goods or time to the unfortunate, either directly or by means of a charitable trust or other worthy cause, is described as charity or charitable giving. The poor, particularly widows and orphans, and the sick and disabled, are generally regarded as the proper objects of almsgiving. Some groups regard almsgiving as being properly directed toward other members of their group.
Donations to causes that would benefit the unfortunate indirectly, as donations to cancer research hope to benefit cancer victims, are also charity.
The name stems from the most obvious expression of the virtue of charity is giving the objects of it the means they need to survive.
Most forms of charity are concerned with providing food, water, clothing, and shelter, and tending the ill, but other actions may be performed as charity: visiting the imprisoned or the homebound, dowries for poor women, ransoming captives, educating orphans.
Although giving to those nearly connected to oneself is sometimes called charity -- as in the saying "Charity begins at home" -- normally charity denotes giving to those not related, with filial piety and like terms for supporting one's family and friends. Indeed, treating those related to the giver as if they were strangers in need of charity has led to the figure of speech "as cold as charity" -- providing for one's relatives as if they were strangers, without affection.
The recipient of charity may offer to pray for the benefactor; indeed, in medieval Europe, it was customary to feast the poor at the funeral in return for their prayers for the deceased. Institutions may commemorate benefactors by displaying their names, up to naming buildings or even the institution itself after the benefactors. If the recipient makes material return of more than a token value, the transaction is normally not called charity.
Originally almsgiving entailed the benefactor directly giving the goods to the receiver. People who could not support themselves -- or who feigned such inability -- would become beggars.
Institutions evolved to carry out the labor of assisting the poor, and these institutions are called charities. These include orphanages, food banks, religious orders dedicated to care of the poor, hospitals, organizations that visit the homebound and imprisoned, and many others. Such institutions allow those whose talents do not lend themselves to caring for the poor to enable others to do so, both by providing money for the work and supporting them while they do the work. Institutions can also attempt to more effectively sort out the actually needy from those who fraudulently claim charity. Early Christians particularly recommended the care of the unfortunate to the charge of the local bishop.
In Sunni Islam this is called Zakat, and is one of the five pillars upon which the Muslim religion is based. Charity is also used as a forename, intended to evoke the idea that one so named is a giving person.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Assistance (social behavior)
- Blood donation
- Faith based organizations
- Selfless service
- Sharing (social behavior)
- Tissue donation
References[edit | edit source]
- The Online Etymology Dictionary
[edit | edit source]
- Educational Network for the special needs of the underprivileged
- Catholic Encyclopedia "Charity and Charities"
- Jewish Encyclopedia "Alms"
- Jewish Encyclopedia "Charity and Charitable Institutions"
- Charity in Judaism
- Concept of Charity in the Quran
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