I want to share some thoughts about the Charity, Donation and Philanthropy, from a Masonic perspective. First, we have to state that Charity, charitable activities, and donations are considered the cornerstones of Freemasonry. The term philanthropy is closely related to all of this.
Before I describe and explain the subject, I would like to say why I am dealing with the issue.
In the spring of 2021, at their request, I gave a report to a university group – Hungarian, German, French, and Canadian university teachers, lecturers, researchers dealing with Freemasonry – in which I presented the characteristic features of American Freemasonry. I also talked about the topic to the members of the Hungarian group of the Quatuor Coronati lodge in London. Speaking of this issue, I pointed out the differences and similarities that characterize Anglo-American and so-called continental Freemasonry. In my presentation, I highlighted the difference in perspective, among other things. While the main themes of European and Hungarian Freemasonry are aimed at understanding human thinking, they often come from the themes of philosophy, the main themes of American Freemasonry are related to the theme of charitable activity and donation. In September, at the request of Hungarian Freemasons, I gave a lecture on the subject in Budapest.
The next oration is not a simple English translation of that lecture, but a description of the subject from the perspective of American Freemasonry.
Before examining the issue in detail, let us first clarify the meaning of the basic terms.
The best-known explanation for the term Charity is “donation is voluntary assistance”.
Charity means “generosity and helpfulness, especially to those in need or suffering,” and also means “aid to those in need,” but the phrase “benevolence or love for humanity” is also used.
Freemasons consider “charity” to be one of their most important virtues, because Freemasonry’s responsibilities include, in a prominent position, that a Freemason has a fundamental duty to help all his troubled, worthy brothers, or their widows and orphans.
It is very important to understand that
- On the one hand, Freemasons must fulfill their obligations to their fellow human beings On the basis of the Masonic promise,
- On the other hand, it must be understood that, therefore, a Freemason cannot expect anything for this.
It is based on the virtue of love. The Freemason must offer his time, effort, and energy in the spirit of love to help not only his worthy brother but every other person in need.
A Freemason once put it this way: “He who is poor, but gives some of his time, give it to himself. In that sense, he gives more than a rich man who gives only a portion of his wealth. ”
Mother Teresa explained this: after all, “it doesn’t matter how much we give, but how much love we give in giving”
The beloved can also be seen as a humanitarian act and thus as voluntary assistance. There is a Yiddish term for describing good deeds, which is now generally known and often used, namely the word “mitzvah”.
In the wording of a highly knowledgeable rabbi (Dr. Tamas Raj), the term means “religious good deed”. The rabbi explained the word as follows: “The Jewish religion is not based on dogmas, not on beliefs, since there are no two people in the world who think alike, but on obligatory action. The good deeds are always good for the congregation, and the mitzvah remains the only important measure of value.”
According to Jewish tradition, only conscious good deeds can be considered a mitzvah. In this respect, Jewish public thinking is the same as the opinion of the philosopher Kant, who says that the supreme law reads, “Always think that if everyone acted like you, humanity could survive!”
Despite the troubles of societies, or just because, many do good deeds, many people do charity, and if they can, Freemasons consciously do so.
There are those who do this according to the precepts of their faith, religion, and there are those who consciously, out of conviction, help others. There are people who have a lot of money and therefore help as a patron, and of course, there are those who use the donation for their own benefit by deducting their donation from their own tax base.
We use several terms in connection with the charity. Thus, among others, alms and consent, but most importantly, the term philanthropy.
The term philanthropy is derived from the Greek words “Philos” and “Anthropos.” The interpretation of Philos is someone who loves, and Anthropos means humanity. That is why the person who acts in this way is called philanthropic, and his activity is called philanthropy.
Philanthropy meaning is “an altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons”, for instance “by the endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.” (Source: Philanthropy Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com )
Philanthropy can thus be defined as love for humanity. In the case of philanthropy, the reason for donation is that the donor feels an inner spiritual need to support the goals he or she considers important. That is, the philanthropist gives because it is a spiritual compulsion to give to the needy, and not because of his own material interests. For example, tax cuts
During the Middle Ages, the term “Caritas” was used. (meaning: charity, selfless love) In the Middle Ages, Roman Catholics explained this as an act of salvation and escape from purgatory.
In the modern age, the term charity has come to the fore again and has acquired the content “love of humanity; good nature.” This definition is used today in the form of the term “love of mankind.”
However, it must be clearly seen that charity and philanthropy are not the same activity. The purpose of the charitable person making the donation is to alleviate a particular social problem, while the philanthropist tries to remedy the root cause of the problem. The fundamental difference between charity and philanthropy has an important practical side. In the case of charity the donation – mostly in its financial form – can reduce the tax base of the donor. In contrast, a philanthropist does not give his donation to reduce his tax base with his donation, but because he or she feels it necessary to be humane. A philanthropic person is someone who donates their time, money, experience, and knowledge to create a better world. Everyone, regardless of their social status or wealth, can be humane.
We need to talk about the donation itself.
A donation can be patronage of a material nature, a donation in money, but it can also be a service. Examples include pro bono counseling, education, training, etc. offered free of charge.
In international practice, the relevant principle of public relations is decisive. According to this: “Patronage, philanthropy as part of the external public relations function, organizing communication and organizing relationships with potential supporters, helpers, groups, organizations. No financial or other consideration shall be given in the framework of charitable donation in return for the support. “
If financial compensation would be provided, it would be in the category of sponsorship, which “serves to strengthen the “favorable image” of an organization or person, using the recognized prestige or reputation of another organization, individual or activity, where the organization receives financial or other support. offer.”
The difference between sponsorship and philanthropy is that while in the first case there is mostly material opposition in philanthropy, selflessness is the basis of donation.
Thus, in the course of philanthropic activity, in exchange for a donation, the donor does not receive any consideration or gain an economic or competitive advantage through his donation.
Method of donation
It is very important to understand how to donate. How to donate?
The definition of the method of donation is based on ancient principles. The rules already described in the Bible, namely the Old Testament, and the New Testament also provide donations.
The Old Testament
The concept of philanthropy is thousands of years old. The Old Testament describes four ways of giving:
- In the first case, the donor gives face-to-face to the needy. (In this case, the poor who, when meeting the donor, may feel embarrassed.)
- In the second case, the donor knows to whom he or she is giving, but the needy does not know from whom he or she received the donation. (This makes it easier for the poor to bear the help.)
- In the third case, although the needy know who the donation came from, the donor does not know to whom he or she gave the donation,
- The fourth case, when an intermediary enters between the giver and the recipient, seems to be the clearest so that the giver and the needy do not even know each other.
In the collection of laws related to the Old Testament, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, we can find the rules of “Tzedakah”. The Tzedakah is a Hebrew word meaning “righteousness” but commonly used as charity. This concept of “charity” differs from the modern Western understanding of “charity.” Original connotation of tzedakah is an ethical obligation.
The Shulchan Aruch defines “duties”. We can read the most important regulations. I highlighted the 3 statements that I consider as the most important.)
- „It is an affirmative command to give tzedakah to the poor of Israel. … Anyone who sees a poor man begging alms and turns away his glance from him and does not give him tzedaka transgresses a negative command, as it is said, “You shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand to your needy brother”“
- Every man is obliged to give as much as he can, even the poor who live by mercy,…. for a little of him is more precious than much of the rich.
- Efforts should be made to ensure that the donation is given as secretly as possible… under no circumstances should one boast of the donation that one gives. But if you dedicate an object to a donation, you should write your name on it to commemorate, and it is even right to do so.
The New Testament on Donation
Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew states:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
So according to the Bible, giving “alms” is a desirable act. If someone makes a donation to anyone, it does them good. Basically, regular Freemasonry is obligatorily recognizing the “rules” set forth in the Bible for itself.
Here are some examples of American Freemasonry donation:
Summary of Masonic Relief
|New York Hurricane||2012 – 2013||$214.228|
|New Jersey Hurricane||2012 – 2013||$213,204|
|Philippines Typhoon||2013 – 2014||$185.000|
|South Carolina Flooding||2015||$110.000|
|New York 9-11 Attack||2001||$982.000|
|Virginia 9-11 Attack||2001||$337.200|
In a responsible society, Freemasons, as philanthropic individuals, believe they have a responsibility for the future of society. According to the Freemasons, it is the responsibility of the person who does not pass on to others who consciously accept the consequences of his decision, judgment, action, deed, conduct, behavior arising from his principles and moral perception.
Freemasonry values include philanthropy, which Freemasons associate with the concepts of humanism, tolerance, high moral and intellectual example, spiritual development, and the creation of their collective need, at the level of the individual and society. It feels good to give to a philanthropist. For a philanthropist, giving is a good deed, especially if it is religious, but it is true even if it is not.
There is a mitzvah, there is a good deed that does not cost money. This mitzvah can be performed by anyone, even the needy, even those who otherwise need a donation. This is the donation that everyone has that everyone could easily donate. This mitzvah can be fulfilled by anyone. This gift is the smile that everyone can give.
My wish is great: everyone can be philanthropic.