We all know the saying “Charity begins at home.” What does it actually mean?
There are the clear meanings which refer to being loving toward our family members or those in our immediate circle, or using our limited resources to help those closest to us when they are in need, etc. Is there another meaning that we often overlook?
If we let the many duties and obligations of life distract us from taking care of ourselves, we quickly end up in a position where we have little to offer others. Although we might not give it much thought, this is immeasurably more true on the spiritual plane than it is on the material plane. When we let ourselves become spiritually drained, we become irritable, impatient, and find it hard to go about our own business in peace; we find it even harder to assist others with a kind word, good advice, etc. We may continue to “get ‘er done” day after day, year after year, decade after decade, but we unwittingly scatter the effects of our own spiritual poverty far and wide.
None of us can give what he does not have. This maxim holds whether we are speaking of material or spiritual goods. It is wonderful to see that more and more of us are waking up to the fact that the world is a complete mess; however, disordered men cannot do very much to help it return to health and right order in any kind of substantial, meaningful, or lasting way. Many of us see the insanity all around us, but we rarely look into our own hearts to see what disorders are growing unchecked therein — which is why things just go from bad to worse, both within our hearts and in the world. Charity towards ourselves requires that we put our own houses in order. . . before we try to directly assist those around us, whether family, friends, or perfect strangers. Let us begin to correct our many, long-standing faults; once we have made some notable progress, we shall be in a much better position to assist others.
Even if, by a miracle, all of the world’s ills were healed, would I be made a better man thereby? Would I not still be prideful, arrogant, impatient, sensual, and all the rest? If the entire world were made perfect in one instant, but I remained a disordered and selfish man, how would I benefit from the world’s improvement? Charity does begin at home…with the purification of my own heart.