Spirituality and Community Building
Being charitable towards others is a spiritual asset—one that can contribute to community building. Some might even maintain that it is impossible to build a sense of belonging and community without some form of charitable practice.
An illustration is the South African view of community referred to as “Ubuntu,” which is usually translated as, “I am because of who we are.” Retired Archbishop and social rights activist Desmond Tutu believes that Ubuntu is the very essence of what it is to be human:
“You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality—Ubuntu—you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
This value, or way of life—Ubuntu—suggests a way of thinking, seeing, and acting in the world that we live in now.
Tutu refers to being charitable as being someone with “generosity.” Whether you call it charity or generosity, each word translates to giving of one’s self for another, for the greater good of the community. This can be the giving of one’s time or finances, or something as simple as offering nonjudgmental and kind words.
Through charity or generosity of self, we create a deeper sense of community with each other. We begin to see ourselves as one—one community—connected with each other through Ubuntu. We begin to understand and to acknowledge, that we are interdependent in a respectful and supportive way.
As human beings, as a social clan, we have a need to live within supportive environments where we are nurtured and can thrive together, where there is a strong commitment to the well-being of the community as a whole. We are fundamentally designed to live this way. Being charitable towards one another is not just “a nice thing to do”; it is an imperative for our survival as humans, and for our well-being as a local and global community.
A WORKING DEFINITION OF “BEING CHARITABLE”
Based on your individual experiences, you may have your own meaning of the word charity or charitable behavior. The definition that we shall use for this post is that charitable behavior creates a feeling, which leads one to act voluntarily with kindness or goodwill towards another.
There are a number of synonyms or similar words to describe charity or charitable behavior that may be more comfortable for you; perhaps they resonate more with your values and beliefs. Here are a few based on Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions:
- Altruism: “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of other’s feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness”
- Benevolence: “disposition to do good: (a): an act of kindness, (b): a generous gift”
- Compassion: “a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.; sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”
- Generosity: “the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish: the quality of being generous; especially: willingness to give money and other valuable things to others”
That said, what words or phrases you use to define charity are not as important as taking some form of action to support those who are in need.
In your community, one person may volunteer six hours a month of his time to a homeless shelter, serving meals cheerfully and making everyone smile. Another person may donate money to the same shelter, yet never enter its doors. Another may offer her knowledge and skills by teaching a class on literacy once a month to the shelter’s clientele. All of these are examples of charity and of charitable behavior.
There are many ways one can be charitable to others. There is no one right way, only your way—the way that feels right for you.
Four Aspects of Charity
More specifically, some ways to be charitable include:
Time: Giving of one’s time, however long or short that may be. Giving time is not so much about quantity, as it is about quality—about being present with another to support them in a “hands on” way. This might mean serving meals in that shelter, helping out during disaster relief, volunteering to drive seniors to appointments, baking dinner for a sick neighbor, or any number of activities that help you get to know those you are serving.
Essence: Giving of one’s personal energy and vitality. You may have some personal qualities in abundance and want to share them with others – enthusiasm, hope, grace, gratitude, patience, love – or you may want to increase these qualities in your own life. Each of these qualities brings energy to the space you share with someone when you are truly present with them. Examples: Hearing an exhausted young mother laugh; listening patiently while a man struggles to share his story of being out of work; offering encouragement to someone who feels disheartened. Your own energy and vitality shifts to being more positive and optimistic when you share your authentic self with another.
Talent: Giving of one’s skills and knowledge, such as teaching, gardening, cooking, knitting, or singing; or sharing wisdom from life experience. Everyone has gifts and talents that they are passionate about. These talents come easily and give you joy when you have a chance to express and share them.
Money: Giving of one’s financial resources to provide aid, food, shelter, or clothing; or making a donation to a local or global cause. The sum of money given is not as important as the spirit of the gift. You could start off by giving what you can afford, knowing that even spare change is helpful, and then increase the amount when you are ready, willing, and able to do so.
You may want to take the time to think about these four aspects of being charitable and evaluate which ones have the most meaning for you and where to begin. You may also want to reflect on these questions:
- Do you have time, but limited funds to give; or do you have money, but limited time? What can do you for others with your time or money?
- Is taking a more personal approach, one where you would work side by side with others, more appealing to you; or do you prefer a more hands-off approach—where you give openhandedly, but don’t need or want to meet the recipients of your generosity?
There is no right or wrong answer—your answer is your personal choice. Once you determine what is most important to you, then you may want to begin by writing down some thoughts and ideas that come to mind on how you want to express your unique way of giving. Include names of people or organizations you may wish to support. Being charitable doesn’t need to be complicated; a simple gesture can be meaningful to the receiver. Now you may be more ready to share yourself with others.
THE IMPORTANCE AND BENEFITS OF BEING CHARITABLE
Being Charitable Enriches the Giver and the Receiver
There are rewards to being charitable, both for the giver and the receiver. Not only are you being helpful to those in need, you are developing positive character traits and behaviors in yourself. Charitable work allows you to see life from someone else’s perspective—their struggles and hardships, their triumphs and strengths. It is a privilege to be a witness to another’s life. And in being one, you gain appreciation and gratitude for your own life.
Martha is a manager whose young husband developed an aggressive, terminal cancer. She had her hands and heart full nursing him at home and caring for their two small children. Her co-workers organized themselves, and together they provided dinner every day, not for a month, but every day for six months. Martha’s co-workers were witness to her hardship and struggle, and they responded. They appreciated a need greater than their own. They were inspired to draw on the positive character traits and qualities that live within us all—caring, generosity, selflessness.
Martha’s story showcases how the act of charity in a workplace makes it a community. Because of her co-workers, Martha was able to concentrate on what was important during those precious few months before her husband’s passing.
Many nonprofit community organizations devote themselves to helping those who are suffering from hardship. They seek compassionate volunteers; they offer them the privilege of witnessing someone else’s life by lending a helping hand. By sharing what gifts they have to offer, volunteers receive a gift—they discover and nurture the best within themselves.
On its website, the U.S.-based nonprofit Share the Care states, “Whether you are a burned out caregiver or a novice caregiver, or a friend who wants to help, you can benefit from a system that lets everyone share responsibilities, creates a strong support network among the individual caregivers, and leads to making a profound difference in someone’s life.”
Similar to other website resources like CaringBridge and Lotsa Helping Hands, Share the Care’s mission is connecting caring citizens with citizens going through difficult times in their lives. They are creating small temporary communities of giving within the larger community.
When you give yourself the privilege of being a kind presence in someone else’s life, you will make a difference in theirs and learn a quiet appreciation and gratitude for your own.
Charitable Behavior and the Golden Rule
We all wish to be treated with respect and dignity, and to feel valued and listened to. In the spirit of charity, we would strive to do the same for others. One way to look at this principle is through the lens of reciprocity, known to many as the “Golden Rule,” which states, “Do to others as you wish done to you.” Here is an ethical code that instructs us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Although different cultures and faith traditions might have different words and language, all human cultures have a version of the Golden Rule. It advises us to treat our neighbors, families, and colleagues as we would wish to be treated and shows how we can all apply empathy, understanding, and right action as our moral guideposts.
Depending upon your age or upbringing, you might remember the Golden Rule (or something similar) being introduced into your school, as part of your family values, or as a faith-based principle. It is a universal ethic, with the power to cut across gender, culture, age, beliefs, and social-economic status.
Wisdom traditions, such as the Golden Rule, date far back in our collective history and are expressed in a multitude of societies – both as lay philosophies and as the vital cornerstone of the vast majority of faith traditions.
The Golden Rule in Different Faith Traditions
In alphabetical order, each reads:
- Baha’i Faith: “Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.” Baha’u’llah Gleanings
- Buddhism: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5:18
- Christianity: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Jesus, Matthew 7:12
- Confucianism:” One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct ~ loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” Confucius Analects 15:23
- Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517
- Islam: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
- Jainism: “One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.” Mahavira, Sutrakritanga
- Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest in commentary.” Hillel, Talmud; Shabbat 31a
- Native Spirituality: “We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.” Chief Dan George
- Sikhism: “I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.” Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1299
- Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as our own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Lao Tzu, T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218
- Unitarianism: “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Unitarian principle
- Zoroastrianism: “Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.” Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29
“God doesn’t bribe, child. He just makes a sign and lets people take it as they will.”
― Stephen King,
Can it really be true? America in Bible prophecy – absolutely! When you think about it, it makes sense that the most powerful and influential nation on earth will play a vital role in the final stunning events of the world’s closing history. But even more, surprises await you as the Bible reveals how the leading nation of the world came to exist and why! Please read Revelation 13:11-18 before beginning tho read this post, because these eight verses give a prophetic picture of America in the days ahead.
1. Two world powers are symbolized in Revelation chapter 13. What is the first power?
Answer: The beast with seven heads (Revelation 13:1-10) is none other than the Roman papacy.
(See Study Guide 15 for a complete study on this topic.) Remember that beasts in Bible prophecy symbolize nations or world powers (Daniel 7:17, 23).
2. In what year was the papacy predicted to lose its world influence and power?
“Power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” Revelation 13:5.
Answer: The Bible predicted that the papacy would lose its world influence and power at the end of the 42 months. This prophecy was fulfilled in 1798, when Napoleon’s General Berthier took the pope captive and the papal power received its deadly wound.
3. Which nation was predicted to arise around the same time the papacy was receiving its deadly wound?
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth: and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” Revelation 13:11.
Answer: The papal captivity mentioned in verse 10 took place in 1798, and the new power (verse 11) was seen emerging at that time. The United States declared its independence in 1776, voted the Constitution in 1787, adopted the Bill of Rights in 1791, and was clearly recognized as a world power by 1798. The timing obviously fits America. No other power could possibly qualify.
4. What is the significance of the beast “coming up out of the earth?”
Answer: This nation arises “out of the earth” instead of out of the water as did the other nations mentioned in Daniel and Revelation. We know from Revelation that water symbolizes areas of the world that have a large population. “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Revelation 17:15. Therefore, the earth represents the opposite. It means that this new nation would arise in an area of the world that had been virtually unpopulated before the late 1700s. It could not arise among the crowded and struggling nations of the Old World. It had to come up in a sparsely populated continent.
5. What is symbolized by its two lamb-like horns and absence of crowns?
Answer: Horns represent kings and kingdoms, or governments (Daniel 7:248:21). In this case, they represent America’s two governing principles: civil and religious liberty. These two governing principles have also been labeled “republicanism” (a government without a king) and “Protestantism” (a church without a pope). Other nations since ancient times had taxed people to support a state religion. Most had also oppressed religious dissidents. But America established something entirely new: Freedom to worship as you wish without government interference or control and with government protection. Absence of crowns signifies a republican form of government, rather than a monarchy. Lamb-like horns denote an innocent, young, non-oppressive, peace-loving, and spiritual nation. Jesus is referred to as a lamb 28 times in Revelation. So this new government was trying to uphold His principles. No other power on earth could possibly fit the characteristics and time slot of the lamb-horned beast, except America.
Special Note: How we wish we could stop right here in Jesus’ description of America but we can’t, because He didn’t. What comes next is jolting and disquieting. America is truly a great country with its freedom of conscience, press, speech, and enterprise the protection it provides its golden opportunities its sense of fair play its sympathy for the underdog and its strong Christian orientation. It is not perfect, but even still a host of people from other countries hasten to become American citizens every year. If America’s doors were opened wide, a vast portion of the people of the world would move to the United States at once to “heaven on earth” as they perceive it. Sadly, this richly blessed country will change drastically in the days just ahead, precipitating unparalleled heartache and woe for God’s people. We report it with reticence and deep concern.
America in the end time will force people to either worship or be punished.
The dragon is Satan, who works through various governments of the earth to establish his evil kingdom and crush God’s church by persecuting and destroying His people. Satan’s aim always has been to usurp God’s power and throne and to force people to worship and obey him. (See Study Guide 2 for details.) So “speaking as a dragon” means that the United States (under the influence of Satan) will, in the end time, force people to worship contrary to conscience or be punished.
Apostate religion and civil government will unite in the end time to force people’s consciences.
7. What specifically will America do that will cause it to speak as a dragon?
Answer: Notice the four crucial points:
A. “Exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him.” Revelation 13:12. America will become a persecuting power that will force people to go against their conscience, as did papal Rome which is portrayed in the first half of Revelation chapter 13.
B. “Causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” Revelation 13:12. The United States will lead the nations of the world in forcing worship of, and allegiance to, the papal Antichrist. The issue is always worship. Who will you worship and obey? Will it be Christ your Creator and Redeemer, or Antichrist? Every soul on earth will finally worship one or the other. The entire approach will appear to be deeply spiritual. Incredible miracles will be wrought (Revelation 13:14, 15) which will deceive billions (Revelation 13:3). Those who refuse to join this movement will be considered godless radicals. Jesus labels Protestant America of the end time a “false prophet” (Revelation 19:20 20:10), because it will appear spiritual and trustworthy but instead will be satanic in its conduct.
All this may seem impossible, but Jesus’ words are always totally reliable and true (Titus 1:2). He foretold the rise and fall of the four world empires and the Antichrist (Daniel chapters 2 and 7) at a time when such predictions seemed outlandish and incredible. But all came to pass precisely as predicted. His warning to us today regarding prophecy is, “I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” John 14:29.
C. “Saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” Revelation 13:14. The United States will make an image to the beast by legislating religious practice. It will pass laws requiring worship and force people to either obey them or face death. This action is a copy or image of the church-state combination that the papacy utilized at the height of her power during the Middle Ages, when millions were slain for their faith. America will combine civil government and apostate Protestantism in a “marriage” that will support the papacy. It will then influence all the nations of the world to follow her example. Thus, the papacy will gain worldwide support.
D. “And cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” Revelation 13:15. The United States, as head of this international movement, will next influence the nations of the world to impose a universal death sentence upon all who refuse to worship the beast or his image. Another name for this worldwide coalition is “Babylon the Great.” (Study Guide 22 will provide more information.) This worldwide alliance will, in the name of Christ, substitute the policeman’s power for the Holy Spirit’s persuasion and will force worship.
8. Over what specific issues will force be utilized and the death sentence passed?
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:15-17.
Answer: The final points of contention will be worshiping and obeying the beast and receiving his mark–Sunday as a holy day–versus worshiping and obeying Christ and receiving His mark–His holy seventh-day Sabbath. (For details, see Study Guide 20.) When the issues become clear and people are forced either to worship on Sunday and break the Sabbath or be killed, those who then choose Sunday rather than Sabbath will be, in essence, worshiping the beast. They will have chosen to obey the word of a creature, a man, instead of the word of their Creator, Jesus Christ. Here is the papacy’s own statement: “The church changed Sabbath to Sunday and all the world bows down and worships upon that day in silent obedience to the mandates of the Catholic Church.” Hartford Weekly Call, February 22, 1884.
During World War II, ration stamps controlled the sale of food, fuel, tires, and other necessities. Such control could easily be utilized again.
9. Could a government really control buying and selling?
Answer: During World War II, buying was controlled for some items (such as sugar, tires, and auto fuel) by requiring ration stamps. Without stamps, money was worthless. In this highly computerized age, a system based on your Social Security number could easily be set up. Unless you agreed to cooperate with the worldwide coalition, your number, when punched in before a purchase, could show you disqualified. We do not know precisely how all this will come about. But we can be positive it will happen because in Revelation 13:16, 17, God says it will.
Two Emerging Powers
Revelation chapter 13 is clear. Two superpowers will emerge in the end time: the United States of America and the papacy. The United States of America will support the papacy by leading a drive to force the people of the world to worship the beast (papacy) and receive his mark or else face death. The next two questions will evaluate the strengths of these two superpowers.
The papacy is the strongest religio-political power on earth.
10. How strong and influential is the papacy today?
Answer: She is by far the strongest religio-political power in the world. Virtually every leading country of the world has an official ambassador or state representative at the Vatican. Notice the following facts:
A. The papacy is so influential and powerful that nearly every major country consults her before making major policy moves. Her “large diplomatic corps maintains relations with more than 100 nations.” U.S. News and World Report, October 30, 1978, p. 24.
B. She takes the credit for the demise of communism, saying that Mary, Jesus’ mother, guided the pope’s strategy that brought down communism. “Handmaid or Feminist,” Time, December 30, 1991, pp. 64, 65.
C. The aim of the pope is to unify the Christian world under the leadership of the papacy by the end of this century. He has made more than 40 world trips to lay the ground work for this goal. Gene H. Hogberg, The Plain Truth, November/December 1989, pp. 24, 25.
D. The worldwide response has been almost overwhelming. During the Iraqi crisis, the pope and America’s president sometimes discussed world affairs weekly by phone. U.S. News and World Report, August 13, 1990, p. 18.
E. On June 7, 1982, former President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II met for 50 minutes at the Vatican and structured a plan to eliminate communism. The United States shipped tons of modern communication equipment to Poland (the starting place) to help spread necessary information to the masses. “The Holy Alliance,” Time, February 1992, pp. 28, 31, 35.
F. Gorbachev said, “Everything which took place in Eastern Europe in recent years would have been impossible without the Pope’s efforts and the enormous role, including the political role, which he played in the world arena.” Mikhail Gorbachev, Toronto Star, March 9, 1992.
The papacy, which formerly referred to Protestants as “heretics,” is now calling them “separated brethren” and graciously suggesting that all work and pray together for peace and God’s presence. Millions of Protestants are deeply impressed. In fact, several Protestant denominations have had official dialog with the papacy to try to settle the differences that caused the Reformation.
1. How strong and influential is the United States today?
Answer: The United States is regarded as the world’s number one military power and center of influence. Note the following:
A. “[America is] the planet’s sole remaining superpower.” “The U.N. Obsession,” Time, May 9, 1994, p. 86.
B. “There is no prospect in the immediate future of any power to rival the United States.” Charles Krauthammer, “The Lonely Superpower”, The New Republic, July 29, 1992, p. 23.
C. Yassir Arafat labeled America “the new Rome” because, as old Rome was the undisputed superpower of its age, America is now number one. Newsweek, August 12, 1991, p. 33.
D. “America’s power will now determine all major global events.” Jim Hoagland, “Of Heroes …”, The Washington Post, August 21, 1991, p. A-23.
When a Marxist group overthrew the government of Ethiopia, America was asked to negotiate. When Boris Yeltsin took office as president of the newly independent Russia, he visited America first. Former U.S.S.R. President Mikhail Gorbachev turned to America in his crisis. When Kuwait was invaded, its government called on America. The U.S.-led war against Iraq rallied the support of almost the entire world. A National Public Radio correspondent called the American president the “president of the world.” We now have “a highly unusual world structure with a single power, the United States, at the apex of the international system.” Krauthammer, The New Republic, p. 23.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
—Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
Taking time to inventory the great challenges God has delivered me through today has allowed me to get to know Him more intimately. Jesus loved all my hurt and misconceptions about my life away, He turned everything around. I looked in the mirror and saw His character today and for that I say,,. Thank you, Jesus…
That sounds good, doesn’t it? I’ve had enough “heavy stuff” in my life, and I want to enjoy freedom. When you are overloaded with the cares of life you need some help. Your mind needs rest from worrying, your emotions need rest from being upset, and your will needs a rest from stubbornness and rebellion. So you need to be humble enough to call out to God and say, “I need help!” Your beginning doesn’t have to dictate your ending. Get God involved in every area of your life and allow Him to lead you into “real rest.”