Today’s post is about the origin of “charity begins at home”. Who said “charity begins at home”? On Bible or Not we like to share popular quotes along with the sources of those quotes, whether Bible or Not (hence the name of this blog). It’s also fun to research and share the origin of famous quotes and sometimes get into the etymology of some of the words.
The origin of Charity Begins at Home is usually not attributed to the Bible. One of the people most referenced as the author of this quote is Sir Thomas Browne, an English physician, writer and theologian:
“But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? ‘Charity begins at home,’ is the voice of the world;” – Sir Thomas Browne, 1642
It was also said by other famous writers and theologians:
“‘Charity should begin at himself.” – John Wycliffe 1383
“Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.” – Charles Dickens, 1844
I make the argument that while this quote is not verbatim from the Bible, the concept definitely is. Furthermore, those who are most quoted as saying “charity begins at home” were well read in the scriptures. We see in the first letter of Paul to Timothy this verse:
But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. – 1 Timothy 5:4 KJV
When reading this verse in its full context we see that Paul was instructing Timothy about how the members of the Church should be treated, and in particular, widows. While the Church should always be a haven and support for those in need, Paul’s instruction to Timothy was that support should first come from your own family, or in other words, charity begins at home. If the “home” is truly unable to provide support, then the Church will do so.
But you may say that “charity” and “piety” do not mean the same thing, and you would be technically right, but let’s understand the context, and if I dare say, the intent of this verse. The Amplified Bible reads this way:
“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, see to it that these are first made to understand that it is their religious duty [to defray their natural obligation to those] at home, and make return to their parents or grandparents [for all their care by contributing to their maintenance], for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” – 1 Timothy 5:4 The Amplified Bible
The word “piety” in the original greek is “eusebeó” meaning to show respect. It is a form of the word “eusebeia” which means “godliness” or “holiness”. The word “charity” in the original greek is “agapē” which means “love”. So, in the context of this verse I contend that the use of the word “piety” means to be godly and holy, and show respect for your family by providing for their natural needs. This type of action can only be driven by the love of God, which is “charity”. And this charity must first begin at home. Convinced? Leave a comment if you are, or even if you think I’m just an idiot.
So, what’s the deal with the goose photo? I was mountain biking today and came across this pair of geese, and that inspired this post. If you look closely in the background you will see a mother goose sitting on her eggs. As I was riding by, father goose came out hissing at me in order to protect (provide for the safety of) his family…piety begins at home. You see, God has placed this principle even in the animals. This is not to be confused with “never go against the family.” 😉 And speaking of animals, a photographer friend of mine has an extraordinary dog and cat photography website.
God : Family : Country. In that order. God bless.