The Greatest of These Is Charity
Melville H. Nahin, 33
Beverly Hills, CA

A greater charity than giving only money is giving of ourselves, our time and talent.

Throughout the Masonic Degrees, we hear much of charity. But what is charity? Is it the act of putting money in the Salvation Army pot at Christmas time? Is it donating to your Church, Synagogue, or Mosque? Surely this must be charity, as we are allowed to claim these gifts as income-tax deductions.

How then do we explain the references in the Entered Apprentice Degree in the American Ritual, “Charity extends beyond the grave through the boundless realms of eternity”? Or the circumambulation of the Fellowcraft Degree, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind...”?

There must be a greater charity than that of giving only money--the charity of giving the gift that no one else can give, the giving of ourselves, the giving, for example, of our time and talent to coach a candidate through the Degrees and convey to him more than just the mouthing of the Ritual. Then there is helping the members of our Fraternity, the guests in our retirement homes, and the patients in our hospitals. And what about the charity of giving our personal support and leadership to youth groups in the various Bodies of Freemasonry--DeMolay for Boys, Job’s Daughters, and Rainbow for Girls? And remember the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, the Little League, and the several youth groups in our various community and religious associations.

But perhaps the greatest charity of all is the hardest to explain as it is the easiest to give and the one most often overlooked, the charity of kindness.

Charity in its truest form is love of your fellowman regardless of his race, creed, color, or the amount of money in his bank account.

The opening prayer in one of our Masonic organizations reads, “Enrich our hearts with that most excellent gift of charity, so that our acts may be full of the spirit of kindness and forbearance, one toward another.”

In the Revised Standard Version of the Volume of the Sacred Law, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, translates the word charity to love. And charity in its truest form is love of your fellowman regardless of his race, creed, color, or the amount of money in his bank account.

I recall the funeral of John F. Kennedy many years ago. An Air Force Sergeant was playing “Taps.” His performance was televised all over the free world. He was performing to the largest audience a musician ever had, and, being human, he made a mistake. He missed a note.

After the service a television announcer said the most charitable thing I have ever heard. In commenting on the bugler’s mistake, he said very simply, “His lips trembled for the whole world.”

“And now abides faith, hope and charity, these three but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinthians 13:13).” As Masons, may we add, “So mote it be.”

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