Charity as defined in the King James Bible 1 Corinthians 13 is the essence of a Christian life. Verse 3 states: “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, … and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Charity then is much more than giving alms. The next verse enlightens us. Charity is patient and kind, does not have envy, and is not boastful or prideful. Clearly, charity does not seek revenge or payback. If someone cuts you off in traffic what is your natural impulse? Do you try to catch up and cut him off? Such action certainly does not fit this definition of charity. Certainly the desire for payback, revenge if you will, causes much of the disruption in society. It is the cause of killing on both the personal and state level, murder and war. Charity must be voluntary. It cannot arise by state fiat.
Boris Pasternak said in his great novel, Doctor Zhivago: “I used to be very revolutionary, but now I think that nothing can be gained by brute force. People must be drawn to good by goodness.” Charity must be voluntary. The government cannot force folks to be charitable. With control of the government purse comes power and Lord Acton said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” As history has repeatedly proven, Lord Acton was right. It is the exception when a person’s head is not turned by power or the lure of it. The quest for power gets in the way of charity. Charity must be selfless. Most folks seem to acquire a taste for power—a little tastes good, a lot tastes better. History is replete with examples. Few are the examples of the voluntary relinquishment of power. George Washington is an illustration. He is great because he knew how to use power, but he also knew when to give it up. He practiced charity!