For many, charity is an action that ends with alms. There is no doubt that every good action of giving towards the other is meritorious. But for Christianity, the charity has a much higher value and must be practiced in a form that goes beyond giving.
For the Christian religion, charity is linked to love, to the taking of total responsibility towards the other, and implies behavior of close brotherhood. Perhaps for this reason St. Paul indicated charity as the greatest of all virtues.
What is charity?
Charity is the very identity of God. This is what we learn from the first letter of the apostle John – God is love – 1 Jn 4:16, in this passage the Apostle uses the Greek term agape, which means love free of benevolence.
The charity also means the love with which God loves each of us This is the meaning of the prayer that Jesus addresses to the Father before his arrest (Jn 17:26) – The love with which you have loved me be in them and I in them -. Charity means the love with which we love God, ourselves, and others. Therefore, a love of response, a love of result that depends on the fact that God is love and that God loves us.
What distinguishes Christian charity from the concept of solidarity
The characteristic element that makes the difference is the origin, the source, and the awareness of this origin. Charity is the very nature of God, it is the fact that God loves me with the love with which he loves himself. And precisely because God loves me and involves me in his dynamism of love, then I am made capable of loving with his own love of him: this is Christian charity.
A kind of enabling, of empowerment that God works in us. By loving us, Jesus Christ makes us capable of loving in turn with his heart and his enthusiasm, with his motivations and his goals. This is the plan of salvation in which every man and woman is called to actively enter: a plan of salvific love that is realized with love that becomes an offering of oneself.
Therefore, charity finds its origin in God himself and conforms us to the life of Christ. Solidarity, altruism, generic benevolence are good dispositions of the human soul. They are virtues and as such they are appreciable, they can lead to the same gestures that charity can lead to. But the origin and goal of solidarity, altruism, and generic benevolence are different from the origin and goal of charit y.
In fact, solidarity arises from the awareness of belonging to the same community and having common interests and purposes. While charity has God himself as to its goal, that is, to participate in his own life of love and happiness, human solidarity has as its goal a more immediate reality, mutual help.
Classical theology briefly teaches that the formal reason for charity is God himself. That is, the awareness and gratitude of being loved by God and the will to correspond to so much love, while the formal reason for solidarity or altruism is the awareness of having something in common with the loved one.