By Marcia Hufstader, Member of Third Church of Christ, Scientist
Recently I heard a report on the origin of philanthropy. Spurred by this to learn more on the subject, I found that Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition of philanthropy includes this: “The love of mankind; benevolence towards the whole human family; universal good will.” It struck me that this definition is not anchored in the sharing of monetary wealth. And I realized that everyone can be a philanthropists – including me!
So, I asked myself, “Do I feel love for mankind?” I realized that it really is both important and natural for me to love all mankind. The Bible says (1 John 4:19), “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” I have learned to love God more over the last few years by being more aware and grateful for every evidence of good I see during my day. And I reasoned that it’s natural, then, for me to extend this love to His creation. Following the Bible directive, more and more I earnestly and honestly feel love for my fellow man. And this love, being an expression of divine love which is universal, it naturally extends to the whole human family.
Benevolence includes so much more than the giving of large sums of money. It can be a simple act of kindness. When I actively love my neighbor in everyday life – by recognizing a need and responding to it, for example – I’m being benevolent. This could involve giving them something they need or simply listening to something they need to share. It could be expressed by giving encouragement or praise.
My benevolence is shared more broadly by including the whole human family in my prayers each day. Often, that daily prayer includes acknowledging God’s unconditional and complete love for all mankind and knowing that everyone can feel that love and be blessed by it.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science church, was known for her philanthropy and her love for mankind. In her book First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, she said, “… philanthropy is loving, ameliorative, revolutionary … Love for mankind is the elevator of the human race; it demonstrates Truth and reflects divine Love.”
Divine Love – God – is an infinite source of love and each one of us therefore has an unlimited amount of love to give. We can all be philanthropists.