The Work of Christian Charity

Louis Berkhof


1. The Character of Christian Charity.

Christian charity is, as the name indicates, a specifically Christian virtue, the fruit of saving grace. It is Christian love extended to those that are in misery, a love that reveals itself in a voluntary and unselfish devotion to those that are subject to the ills of life, particularly, when they are in straitened circumstances.

The Christian, in his work of charity, seeks those that are in misery, of whatever rank they may be, and aims at promoting the glory of God.

Christian charity differs even from the charity that was exercised by Israel under the Old Testament. This was limited almost exclusively to the poor of their own nation. Moreover, it was carefully regulated by an external law. Christian charity, on the other hand, is inspired and regulated by an internal principle and is universal.

2. The Motives for Christian Charity.

The primary motive is found in the fact that the Word of God calls upon us to show forth the image of God also in this respect. "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). This is a very high ideal.

In the second place the Christian love that fills our hearts prompts us to exercise charity. This charity will reveal itself in all its tenderness and compassion where misery is greatest, as, for instance, during a pestilence, or a famine, or on the battlefield.

Moreover, it is necessary for our own spiritual development that we exercise charity. This is not selfishness, but merely a part of the law of our spiritual existence.

3. Opportunities for Exercising Christian Charity.

There is always abundant opportunity for exercising this virtue. We can do it wherever we come in contact with misery.