Why are faith and philanthropy so important? I think the place to begin is to understand the origins of the words. In this case, I want to focus on the word “philanthropy”. In Latin it is called philanthropia, meaning "kindliness, humanity, benevolence, love to mankind" (from gods, men, or things). Breaking the word down even further, phil means "loving" and anthropos means "mankind".
So one who is a philanthropist “loves mankind”, because s/he is giving what s/he possess and has value – whether emotional or financial - to another for her/his use, possession, and/or wellbeing. When I kiss my daughter and tell her I love her, I am a philanthropist. When my wife and I paid for her college education and helped her fulfill her aspirations, we were philanthropists.
In simplest terms, philanthropy is the purest form of empathy; it is putting ourselves in the shoes of others and doing them good.
But what motivates us? As faithful people, our ethos and inspiration to be philanthropists is written in the Gospels and contained in the message of Christ. In John 13, verses 34 & 35, Jesus tells us, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Can someone who is not Christian be a philanthropist? Yes, of course. But can a follower of Christ not be a philanthropist? NO!
I am certain we all believe we are generous with our time, talents and treasures, but if the measure is what God does and gives everyday, I know I have much work to do. But this isn’t an obligation, nor is there an expectation of anything in return. If these were the reasons we give, they would not make us philanthropists, lovers of mankind; they would make us barterers – I give you this and you give me that.
Our faith and philanthropy go together. In fact they are inseparable since they are both callings to love as God has loved us.