Sunday, January 22, 2012

A midrash on the existential necessity of charity

"Charity" by
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
courtesy of Wikipedia
Paul famously said "though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." Why not take him at his word? Without charity, a man ceases to exist. This is backed up by Mormon, who said if a man "[has] not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity." In other words, if a man had no charity he would not exist; ergo, since he exists he clearly has (at least some) charity.

Mormon also spoke of "how great" the "nothingness of man" is. That's interesting, that nothingness can be relatively large. You can have different levels of nothingness! This clarifies the above point about how not having charity leads to being nothing. The less charity you have, the less you "exist" in some sense. Which actually fits with our intuition: we think of the least charitable people as missing a part of their heart, or incomplete in some way. They're not all there.

Charity, then, is an existential need. If we were to become entirely devoid of charity, we would suffer the eternal destruction of both soul and body. Conversely, the more we cleave unto charity and are filled with it, the more we find ourselves, the more we exist, the more perfect (read: complete) and divine we are. It's a spectrum from nothingness to Godliness.

God is brimming with charity, so he exists in the fullest sense of the word. His light, which is intimately intertwined with his charity, actually emanates into all things, providing them with life. This is why he wants to fill us with his love, why he commands us to be full of love/charity. This is the same promise that as we become Gods we shall receive all that the Father has.

We already have a portion of God's love within us. We know this because we exist. If we would continue to exist, and to achieve abundant eternal lives, we need charity. Charity never faileth. We, with charity, will never die.


  1. You took a much more metaphysical approach than I would, but I like the focus on charity. I gave a talk a week ago on this topic. I'd love your thoughts:

  2. Thanks for sharing, beautifully written and some thoughts I will have to think on.

  3. Thanks, geoffsn, good stuff! I <3 charity :)

    Diana, thanks. Don't think too hard, though, it was basically scriptural free association/beat poetry :)

  4. Its good stuff...But is so much belief in an invisible entity in the name of faith justified??? Probably a perspective is needed... views shall be appreciated...Its not on charity...but its speaks about belief in the existence of God. and to me you seem to be a believer....

  5. This made my head spin.

  6. Ryan: good, that's how you know it's working! :)