It is one of the seven virtues of Christianity. It used to have a central place in Roman ethics and Judaism as well. Today, we remain deeply impressed by the idea of charity, but often from a distance, without probing the concept too deeply, with little attempt to practise it systematically. It’s something we might have recourse to when we’re moved by a documentary on the TV or have some loose change left over after the holidays.
At its most basic, charity means: giving someone something they need but can’t get for themselves. And normally that’s understood to mean something material. We overwhelmingly associate charity with giving money.