The greatest of these…
The greatest of these…
The beautiful verse in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that begins “If I speak with the tongues of men or of angels…” is read on many memorable occasions by both believers and non-believers. It has inspired millions to improve their behaviour. Like most verses in the bible, and other religious texts, it is occasionally edited to fit new language use. It originally ended “And now there remain these three: Faith, Hope and Charity. But the greatest of these is Charity”.
Perfectly understandably “Charity” was altered. The word had become associated rather narrowly with giving to the down-and-out. Its original meaning, everyone surmised – probably correctly – was, in modern vernacular, “love”, in the broadest sense. Of course, “love” has itself become compromised by its use to express sex through ghastly songs, when it is usually pronounced ‘leurve’. Were I asked to amend the word ‘Charity’ today I would use ‘Caring”. About the greatest thing we can do for others is to care for them.
‘Faith’ has itself developed a meaning that is more strident than the original word intended, not for everyone but for some. ‘Faith’ was, and still sometimes is, vigorously beaten into young children as though it could somehow be forced. Many of those so treated took years to work out that being ‘Faith’ it had to have a generous helping of ‘doubt’ attached to it – if it was to be believed. I think today ‘Faith’ would be better expressed as ‘Belief’.
The forgotten one is ‘Hope’. Such a lovely word but it, too, got mistreated. “You can’t just sit there and hope” was voiced, often enough when we were young to lead us to ask “why not?” Actually, hope is a wonderful condition. I have an old friend who is nearing the end of his life. His nearest and dearest died a while ago. He is in a home, decent, I think, but lonely. One of his children persuaded him to join her family. It gave him the only thing he wanted – Hope.
So Hope shall keep the name with all its connotations of a stocking at Christmas and a glass of something drinkable before bed. Not to mention the opportunity it affords us to provide for other people. And so there remain Belief, Hope and Care. And the greatest of these is Care.
Not as beautiful as the original words, I’ll grant you. But quite practical for today’s needs.