A common question we receive at our ministry is “What is charity in the Bible?” Here is a biblical definition of charity along with some scriptures that mention charity.
Checkout this video:
The Definition of Charity
Charity is often misunderstood. Some people think that charity is simply giving money to someone in need. However, the Bible has a much broader definition of charity.
Love is the Fulfillment of the Law
Charity, according to the Bible, is much more than giving money to a person or organization in need. It is an act of love. Love is defined in the Bible as an unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. This type of love does not seek anything in return. It is not based on feelings but on a decision to do what is best for the one being loved.
One of the most famous verses in the Bible, from 1 Corinthians 13, says that love is patient and kind, never boastful or jealous. It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong doing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
This definition of love goes beyond human relationships and applies to our relationship with God as well. When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), we are keeping His commandments (John 14:15). And when we keep His commandments, we show our love for Him (1 John 5:3).
The Nature of Love
One of the most important things that Christians are called to do is to love others. But what does that actually mean? The word “love” is used so frequently and in so many different ways that it can be difficult to understand what it actually entails.
The Bible has a lot to say about love, and specifically the type of love that Christians are supposed to have for others. One of the best places to look for a biblical definition of love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which says:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
This passage tells us that love is more than just a feeling; it is an action. To truly love someone means to put their needs above our own and to act in their best interests, even when it isn’t easy or convenient for us. It also means forgiving them when they wrong us and continuing to show them kindness and compassion, even when they don’t deserve it.
Ultimately, the best way to understand the nature of Christian love is to look at Jesus Christ himself. He was the perfect example of what it means to love others unconditionally and unselfishly. And because of his great love for us, he was willing to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life (John 3:16).
The Objects of Charity
The objects of true Christian charity are the persons in whom God sees fit to bestow His gifts, whether these be material goods or spiritual gifts. In other words, the objects of charity are those whom God loves.
Charity, according to the Bible, is an act of giving to the needy done out of love and concern, NOT done begrudgingly or under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is giving with a pure motive (Isaiah 32:8), from a Spirit of generosity and thankfulness (Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:38), not with expectation of anything in return. The parable of the good Samaritan illustrates this kind of self-sacrificial love (Luke 10:25-37).
One of the clearest commands when it comes to charity can be found in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” Christ Himself interpreted this as applying to anyone in need, not just those within our tribe or community (Luke 10:25-37). In other words, we are called to a universality of charity that loves and serves all, regardless of race, creed, or religion.
The Poor and Needy
Charity is one of the most important objects of Christian giving. The Bible has a lot to say about helping the poor and needy, and commands us to be generous in our giving.
There are many verses that talk about giving to the poor and needy, but here are a few of the most important ones:
Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Luke 3:11 – “And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’”
These verses make it clear that we are called to be generous in our giving to those who are in need. We are also commanded to lend to others without expecting anything in return. This is what true charity looks like—giving selflessly without expecting anything in return.
The Motives for Charity
There are two primary motives for charity according to the Bible. The first is to help those who are in need, and the second is to glorify God. When we give to those in need, we are showing mercy and compassion, and we are also following the example of Jesus Christ. When we give to glorify God, we are showing our thankfulness for all that He has done for us.
The Love of God
It is interesting to note that the love of God is not listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Rather, it is included in 2 Timothy 1:7 as a characteristic of God Himself. So, what is the connection between the love of God and charity?
Simply put, charity is an extension of the love of God. It is His love manifested through us to others. In 1 John 4:8, we are told that “God is love.” And in Romans 5:5, we read that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” Therefore, because God loves us and because His love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we too are capable of loving others.
And that is what charity is all about – loving others. It is not simply giving to those in need; it is giving of ourselves. It is showing kindness and concern for others, even if they do not deserve it. It is forgiving those who have wronged us. It is going out of our way to help someone in need, even if there is no chance that they will be able to repay us.
In short, charity is selfless giving without any thought of personal gain or recognition. It comes from a pure heart that has been filled with the love of God.
The Love of Christ
The love of Christ is the primary motive for Christian charity. This love is not based on feelings or emotions, but on a decision to love others as Christ loves us. It is a selfless love that seeks the best for others, even if it means sacrificing our own comfort or interests. When we operate out of this kind of love, we can be confident that we are acting in accordance with God’s will.
The Love of Mankind
One motive for giving to charitable causes is the love of mankind. The loving concern that we have for others leads us to want to help those in need. This was the motive that lay behind the good Samaritan’s acts of mercy (Luke 10:30-37). He did not help the man because he thought he would be rewarded for it or because he felt it was his duty to do so. He helped him simply because he loved him and wanted to meet his need.
The Results of Charity
Charity in the Bible is an important virtue. The Bible tells us to help those in need and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we have charity, we show God’s love to others. Charity is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
The Fruits of the Spirit
Charity, often called love, is one of the most important fruits of the Spirit, and it is the one that sums up all the others. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). It is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). It keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). It does not delight in evil (1 Corinthians 13:6).
All these things are important, but the bottom line is that charity is the willingness to put others first. It is giving without expecting anything in return. It is selfless love in action.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we will naturally exhibit His fruit in our lives, including charity. When we serve others out of love, we are fulfilling one of the greatest commandments – to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We are also imitating Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).
Charity should be a motivation for everything we do. As Christians, our ultimate goal should be to please God and to honor Him with our lives. When we serve others out of love, we are doing just that.
The Gifts of the Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body being many are one body: so also [is] Christ.
The Works of Mercy
The Works of Mercy are those deeds by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. The tradition of the Church has always included the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner, and burying the dead. In addition, since works of mercy are an extension of love and a sharing in God’s work of salvation, they include giving alms to the poor and praying for the living and the dead.