The word “benevolence” often implies giving money. But, various dictionaries define benevolence as “a disposition to do good; an act of kindness,” and a “desire to do good to others; good will or charitableness.” The word money is not even used in these definitions. Mary Baker Eddy encourages us to “resolve[ ] things into thoughts.” (Science and Health 269:9) So what is a more spiritual concept of benevolence? In Miscellaneous Writings, Eddy writes, “The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man. This change of heart is essential to Christianity …” (Mis. 50:29). She tells us that benevolence is a goal, and it is equal to love for God and man.
What is that benevolence and love for God and man? Jesus says that we must “love one another.” (John 13:34) But, that “[l]ove cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; … the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth.” (Mis. 250:14) Benevolence is not just a nice thought; it must be acted upon.
Equally important, love must have a recipient as well as a giver. An expanded sense of God, Love requires us to not only express love, but see it expressed in our experience by accepting love. True benevolence cannot be one-sided. As Love includes both the lover and the loved, benevolence includes both the giver and the receiver. The story of the loaves and fishes can be seen as an expression of Jesus’ benevolence. His benevolence fed the multitude to meet both a spiritual and human need. The multitude received his benevolence, and they were both fed human food and spiritual inspiration.
How has Visiting Christian Science Nursing Care of Greater Chicago put this expansive concept of benevolence into practice? Since our opening, our most important goal has been to make sure that visiting Christian Science nursing is available to all in Chicago who need it. While we bill for our services, if your current circumstances make it difficult to pay your bill, we treat the unpaid portion as benevolence. We don’t want anyone to fail to request Christian Science nursing care because of fear of the cost.
Our endowment is the result of generous contributions by many Christian Scientists. Those who have donated want their gifts to be used and valued. So, if you have a need, let God meet that need through our benevolence fund. Accepting benevolence and then expressing gratitude for that gift fulfills the Manual requirement that “Gratitude and love should abide in every heart each day of all the years.” (Man. 60:15-17) And we know that gratitude is a powerful force for healing.
– Board of Directors