MAYBE it seems a rather high-flown word for giving. But when I was reading recently about a monk in Sri Lanka, philanthropy was the term that came to thought.1 The article told of how a monk had been sent to a remote village where he found that families were suffering severely from malnutrition and illness. What the monk did was to set about helping. He didn't neglect his religious duties, but he also became an advocate for the village. I wondered if I would have given as much, with as much indefatigability, selflessness, and prayer from my standpoint.
A whole new basis for philanthropy seems needed if civilization is to survive. Even in our own country, our own communities, our own church families, the need may be more pressing than we have supposed. Begin with an honest look into your own church family and you may be startled! How truly generous, giving, and caring are we? How's our philanthropy?
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ``Love talked and not lived is a poor shift for the weak and worldly.... Philanthropy is loving, ameliorative, revolutionary; it wakens lofty desires, new possibilities, achievements, and energies; it lays the axe at the root of the tree that bringeth not forth good fruit; it touches thought to spiritual issues, systematizes action, and insures success; it starts the wheels of right reason, revelation, justice, and mercy; it unselfs men and pushes on the ages.''2
What's being discussed in this passage is a philanthropy of serious love for mankind -- love that has powerful practical effect, but love that apparently has an even greater power behind it. According to Christian Science, there is something else behind a genuinely philanthropic impulse, and that something is God, divine Love. This must have been the case with Christ Jesus. His love for others was no pallid, passive moralism.
There is an energized and expansive feeling that comes in catching sight of this infinite good that God is giving to man. We may be surprised at first as we begin to realize the sheer abundance of answers, of solutions, of good ideas that exist, where previously it might have seemed we had barely enough to carry us through our own difficulties. Isn't the truth, however, that we don't lose time, resources, or personal opportunities through giving unselfed love; we gain them. This represents a new basis for giving that doesn't require great wealth. But it does take a recognition of the scientific relation of man to God, to the Love that is the divine Principle of the universe.
It's possible to pose so many complex questions about philanthropy that we just never get around to much giving, either of our thoughts and prayers, or of ourselves and our funds. But the prayer of a radical spiritual understanding of man as the greatest means of philanthropy doesn't preclude taking the steps that follow naturally from this prayer. The fact is that a new spiritual view of philanthropy and its scientifically Christian basis stimulates a spirit of giving as nothing else can. Philanthropy has a great future.
1See Lloyd Timberlake, Only One Earth: Living for the Future (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1987), pp. 41-60. 2The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 287-288.
This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the May 8 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.