By: Christopher A. Harris, MPS FGCR
Liberty Lodge #31 AF &A M (Liberty, Missouri)
Grand Lodge AF & AM of Missouri

We hear the word "Charity" throughout our entire Masonic experience.  
Everywhere from our introduction as Entered Apprentices to our stated 
communications when talking about brothers, their families, and those in our 
localities that need assistance.  How many of us truly understand the impact 
this simple word means?  The Hebrew's in talking about this used the phrase 
Aheb Karubah which translated means "Love of our Neighbor." Another important 
Hebrew phrase is Aheb Aloh which translated means "Love of God." They are 
symbolic of the pillars of true morality and virtuous excellence, and refer 
to the sentence uttered by the young man's question on what he should do to 
be saved, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 
and with all thy mind and with all thy strength, and love thy neighbor as 
thyself.  This do and thou shalt live. ."  Another Hebrew word is Hanan which 
means Compassion.  Hanan and its cognate draw attention to the response of a 
person who is able to help another person who stands in need.  Again there is 
the implicit assumption that the one who helps is moved by his feelings and 
that the one who is helped has no right to expect aid. In 1 Corinthians 13, 
St. Paul uses the Greek word "Agape" to show us his meaning of Charity.  The 
definition of  "Agape" love is very broad. Some of the definitions of "Agape" 
love are:

Love, Charity, Charitably, feasts of Charity, 
Brotherly Love, Affection, Good Will, Benevolence.

By having Charity, or Love, as some translators put it, one should have the 
same high esteem that the Creator has for His human children and the high 
regard which they, in turn should have for Him and other people.  We hold the 
Holy Scriptures in highest esteem as it is certainly the most remarkable book 
of love in the world.    "Agape" love also expresses the essential nature of 
the Creator.  It can be known only from the actions it prompts.  That love is 
like the oil to the wheels of obedience.  It enables us to run the way we are 
meant to be as Children of God and in keeping with his Holy Word.  Without 
such love we are nothing.  Such spirit inspired love never fails but always 
flourishes.  In a great example of "Agape" love take what St. Paul said in 
his letter to the Church at Corinth.

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I 
have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have the gift of 
prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, 
so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give 
all my possession's to the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned but do 
not have love, it profits me nothing."  

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is 
1 Corinthians 13:13

In reading these passages, when you see the word LOVE it has been translated 
from the word AGAPE.  In some translations of Scripture, such as the King 
James Version, the word used is CHARITY, which can also be translated as 

In going through our rituals and rituals from two other jurisdictions, you 
can see how important Charity and Benevolence plays into being a Freemason 
and a member of the Human family.

MISSOURI  (The Grand Lodge AF & AM of the State of Missouri)
". . . Should you in your future life meet with a member of the human family 
in a destitute condition, it will be your duty to contribute to his relief as 
his necessities may require and your ability will permit."

"The form of a Lodge is an oblong square, from East to West, between North 
and South, from center to the circumference, and from earth to heaven.  It is 
said to be of such vast dimensions to denote the universality of Freemasonry, 
and that a Freemason's Charity should know no bounds."

DUNCAN'S RITUAL  (New York - exposure)
"Let this ever have, my Brother, a lasting effect on your mind and 
conscience; and remember, should you ever see a friend, but more especially a 
brother, in a like destitute condition, you will contribute as liberally to 
his support and relief as his necessities seem to demand and your ability 
will permit, without any material injury to yourself or family."

"Q - What is the form and covering of a Lodge?"

"A - An oblong square, extending from East to West, between North and South, 
from the earth to the heavens and from the surface to the centre."

"Q - Why of such vast dimensions?"

"A - To signify the universality of Masonry, and that a Mason's charity 
should be equally extensive."

D. M. GOUDIELOCK   RITUAL  (The Grand Lodge of Scotland, AF & AM)

". . . I shall immediately proceed to put your principles in some measure to 
test, by calling on you to exercise that virtue which may justly be 
denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason's heart - I mean 
Charity. . .  Suffice it to say that it has the approbation of heaven and 
earth, and, like its sister Mercy, it blesseth him who gives as well as him 
who receives. . . Believe me, this trial was not made to sport with your 
feelings.  But it was done for three special reasons, - first, to put your 
principles to the test; secondly, to evidence to the Brethren that you had 
neither material and metallic substance about you, . . . and thirdly as a 
warning to your own heart, that should you at any future time meet a poor 
worthy, distressed Brother who may claim your assistance, you will think of 
the moment you were admitted into Masonry, poor and penniless, and cheerfully 
embrace the opportunity of practicing towards him that virtue you now profess 
to admire."

"Be especially careful to maintain in their fullest splendour those truly 
Masonic virtues which have been so amply illustrated, namely, Benevolence and 

In the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert Mackey, Charity is defined as 
the following.

CHARITY - . . . We must not fall into the too common error that Charity is 
only that sentiment of commiseration that leads us to assist the poor with 
pecuniary donations.  Its Masonic, as well as Christian application is more 
noble and more extensive.  The word used by St. Paul, Agape, means "love."  A 
word donating that kindly state of mind which renders a person full of good 
will and affectionate regard toward others. . .  Guided by this sentiment 
Masons will "suffer long and be kind."  He will be slow to anger and easy to 
forgive.  He will stay his falling brother by gentle admonition and warn him 
with kindness of approaching danger.  He will not open his ear to his 
slanders and will close his lips against all reproach.  His faults and his 
follies will be locked in his breast, and the prayer for mercy will ascend to 
Jehovah for his brother's sins.  Nor will these sentiments of benevolence be 
confined to those who are bound to him by ties of kindred or wordly 
friendships alone; but, extending them throughout the globe, he will love and 
cherish all who sit beneath the broad canopy of our universal Lodge.  For it 
is the boast of our institution, that a Mason destitute or worthy, may find 
in every clime a brother, and in every land a home."

Recently a brother was ill and unable to work for several weeks. This left 
him and his family in hard times as he was not paid during his sickness.  
From time to time he would get cards of encouragement; from the church 
members, his friends and family and also Lodge brothers from every part of 
his jurisdiction.  Some of these Masons he knew and others he did not.  
Consider an excerpt from one of the letters.

"Dear Brother,
    Although the amount is small in number, I hope that this gift to you will 
help you and your family in your time of need.  Please do not be too proud to 
accept it, it is my gift to you.  I would expect nothing less from my 
Brothers should I be found in distress. . .  Please let us know if you need 
anything for you or your family."

This brought tears to the brother as he knew down deep that this was the true 
practice of what Freemasonry is about.  Another story on Charity comes from 
the Civil War.  This is taken from "Masonic Stories" by Edward Ellis on an 
account of a battle that took place near a tavern, where there was no harbor 
and far from the cold.

"The Army of the Potomac, under Grant, assailed the Confederate line on June 
1st to 4th at Cold Harbor.  The Union Army suffered the most bloody repulse 
of the war.  For twenty minutes the losses in killed and wounded were at the 
rate of 500 a minute.  The Union was fought to a standstill.  An order to 
advance again was disobeyed.

One of the most gallant of the Confederate leaders, who was barely 27 years 
of age, was General Robert F. Hoke.  He commanded a division at Cold Harbor, 
and had received his commission as Major-General less than six weeks 
previous.  Directly in front of his lines lay scores of Union dead and 
wounded.  Loss of blood always causes a horrible thirst, and the cries of the 
suffers were more than the Confederates could bear.  Scores ran from the 
ranks, and kneeling among the poor fellows shared the water in their canteens 
with them.  They had been thus engaged only a few minutes when the Federal's 
opened fire on them not understanding the meaning of the word Charity.  The 
bullets whistled so hotly about them they had to hurry back.  General Hoke, 
was so indignant that he issued an order forbidding his men going out of his 

In the lull that followed, he lay down at the foot of a tree to rest, for the 
day was insufferable hot, and he like his men were exhausted.  While lying 
thus, two of his men approached, and saluting said: "General, a wounded 
Yankee is lying out in front and he wanted to know whether there are any 
Masons among us.  We told him there were, whereupon he gave the sign of 
distress and begged us to go and bring him into our lines.  We replied that 
we had been fired upon while helping his companions and because of that you 
had issued strict orders against our passing outside."

General Hoke roused up and looked keenly at the two men. "Are you Masons?" he 
asked.  They answered they were.  "Do you know that it is almost certain 
death for you to try to give help to that poor fellow?"  

"We do; but he has made the Masonic appeal to us, and we only await your 
permission to try and bring him in," the soldiers said.

"Then go in God's name. I do not stand in the way of such courage as that." 
Replied the General.

As eagerly as if rushing to meet a returning brother, the brave men ran 
toward the Federal who lay helpless on the earth.  They had hardly started 
when the enemy, still failing to understand the meaning of the act, opened 
fire on them.  They did not falter or show hesitation.  Everyone expected to 
see one or both fall dead at every step, but they reached the sufferer, 
coolly held a can to his lips and raised his limp body between them, walked 
deliberately back with their burden.  Neither received a scratch."

I hope that we as Masons can take note of our brothers in these examples and 
be not afraid to practice in and out of this Lodge every moral virtue taught 
within it, not only to Masonic brothers in fraternal obligation but to all 
persons, regardless of their station in life.  We should also practice this 
with joy and not lawful duty.  Giving charity is something we do with a smile 
on our face and an outstretched hand waiting to lift up the distressed 

In contrast, Jesus Christ said.

". . .for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and 
you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in; 
naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison and you did not visit Me; 
 Then they themselves also will answer, saying, "Lord when did we see You 
hungry or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison and did 
not take care of You."  Then He will answer them, saying, "Truly I say to 
you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you 
did not do it to Me."
Matthew 25:42-45

I hope that not one of us will ever have to hear that chastisement.  How 
awful of us to have ignored any person in need.