The proverb ‘Charity begins at home’ means that one should first provide for the needs of his/her family before moving on to helping others for charity. There is no point in helping outsiders when there are people in your own family who need help. Helping others is good but it should only be followed when there is peace at home.
Examples are the best way to understand the true meaning of a proverb quickly. I am giving below a couple of interesting examples on the proverb ‘charity begins at home’.
“The family in my neighborhood, stocks the month’s provision for themselves, then distribute the leftover to the poor. Indeed, they believe in charity begins at home.”
“Rakul should not give her books to her friend when she herself needs it for the exams. She should know that charity begins at home.”
“The Prime Minister ordered the evacuation of home citizens before foreign nationals. Perhaps he believes in charity begins at home.”
“First the cow feeds milk to her calf and then only after it, lets the milkman milk her. Even the cow seems to understand that charity begins at home.”
“The local politician first started utilizing the available funds for the development of his own village. He knows that charity begins at home.”
A phrase with the same meaning as the proverb is found in King James Bible, which was the 1611 English translation of the Christian Bible. The King James Bible explains that the person who doesn’t provide for his own immediate family is a non-believer and faith is doesn’t matter for such a person.
Another instance of the use of the similar proverb came in 1382, by John Wyclif, an English Philosopher. Wyclif had written – “Charite schuld bigyne at hem-self.”
Later in the 17th century, an English poet named John Marston mentioned the proverb in one of his plays titled Histrio-Mastix. The first line of the play reads, “True charity beginneth first at home.”
Expansion of the Proverb
The proverb ‘charity begins at home’ means that one should first provide for the needs of one’s own family and close relatives before helping others. In the proverb charity refers to some kind of help, either monetary or other like providing food, shelter, provision, etc. Be it anything, it is advisable that one must first care for his/her own family and then move on to caring for others.
It doesn’t make sense to help others in a situation where your own family is in desperate need of help. At charity that compromises the happiness of your own family, is useless. First, tend for your own family then look for helping others.
The importance of the proverb is that it teaches us that our family should be our first priority. We should help our family members before helping others. In a broader perspective, it teaches us that we should first address the issues of people in our immediate surroundings or those for whom we are immediately accountable.
For instance, a teacher should first be worried about his own class rather than worrying about other classes. A mother’s prime responsibility is to feed her own children, then after she can think of feeding others. Likewise, the proverb teaches us many lessons feasible with several practical situations in life.
Short Stories on ‘Charity Begins at Home’
A story is the best way and an entertaining one, to understand the meaning of a proverb. I am giving below a couple of stories based on the proverb ‘charity begins at home’ for your entertainment and knowledge.
Short Story 1
Once there lived a poor priest in a village in India. He lived with his wife and two children. He would get just enough to feed his family of four, but he was a philanthropist at heart and donated a large amount of food grains to the needy. He believed that God one day will recognize his deeds and will reward him. Priest’s wife wasn’t very happy with the donations made by her husband as she believed that there is no point in donating food to others when her own children go to bed hungry. Many times she tried to change the habit of the priest but in vain.
One day it so happened that the priest’s younger son got ill. The reason was that he was sleeping an empty stomach for several nights, resulting in serious damage to the intestines. The priest was shaken, and heartbroken. He asked God – Why God Why? Why have you troubled my own family even when I help others and do charity more than what I can? He didn’t get an answer then and went to sleep.
That night God came in the dream of the priest and told him – “Son, there is no doubt that I love you and your family. I don’t want any harm upon you and your loved ones. But, what happened to your son is because of your own deed, not mine. You were donating food to others when your own son slept hungrily. Does that make sense? You should have known son that charity begins at home! There is still time, take your son to a doctor tomorrow; feed your own family first, before feeding others. I will take care of the rest.” - saying that God disappeared from his dreams.
The next morning the priest woke up a changed man. First, he took his son to a doctor and secondly, he stopped all charity and donated only the surplus grain he had after feeding his family. The son also recovered fast and the priest knew the true meaning of ‘charity begins at home’.
Short Story 2
Once, there lived a much-disciplined school teacher. He would often catch children playing in the fields and teach them a lesson, scold them and ask them not to disturb others. Children didn’t like him much and feared him. One day he slapped a child for playing and shouting, in the class. The parents of the children were very upset and decided to talk to the teacher for being impractically disciplined.
The parents went to the house of the teacher. There, to their surprise, a completely changed and unexpected scenario presented itself. It seems, the teacher had two children, who were making all the noise in the world, shouting, yelling, and doing things like that. What was surprising was that the teacher was quietly sitting on a chair and was helplessly shouting, asking his children to stop making noise. This was quite opposite of what the parents had expected. They had thought that being a disciplinarian; the teacher’s house would be as silent as a tomb. But, it wasn’t silent by any means and looked out of control for the teacher.
However, the teacher welcomed the parents and asked for their reason to be there. The father of the child replied that - sir, you love discipline and for this reason, you keep on slapping kids in school. But, looking at your house, I suggest that you must first instill discipline in your own house, as you know that charity begins at home.
The teacher was spellbound; he didn’t know how to respond. From that day he started teaching discipline to his own sons rather than teaching it to his students. Indeed. Charity begins at home, he thought.