by George Strong
When we hear the word philanthropy, what comes to mind? Do we immediately think of charitable monetary gifts? Probably we do, because financial charity is the most common current use of the word. And Fern Lodge is deeply grateful every day for those of you who are moved by philanthropy to donate the funds that enable us to give benevolence.
But philanthropy is so much more than financial generosity. The term is derived from two Greek words, one meaning “kindliness, humanity, benevolence, love to mankind,” and the other meaning, “loving mankind, useful to man.”
Mary Baker Eddy recognized the broad scope and range of possibilities that are open to mankind when motivated by philanthropy, a kindliness that is loving and useful. She writes (Miscellany p. 287):
- “Philanthropy is loving, ameliorative, revolutionary;
- it wakens lofty desires, new possibilities, achievements, and energies;
- it lays the axe at the root of the tree that bringeth not forth good fruit;
- it touches thought to spiritual issues, systematizes action, and insures success;
- it starts the wheels of right reason, revelation, justice, and mercy;
- it unselfs men and pushes on the ages.”
Think about these fruits of philanthropy as they are expressed in Christian Science nursing and the healing mission of Fern Lodge. “Philanthropy is loving, ameliorative, revolutionary.” It’s clear that being kind to others, giving to those in need, is loving. And I think we generally understand that such demonstrated humanity is ameliorative; it improves another’s life, makes their circumstances better, more bearable. But why does Mrs. Eddy say “revolutionary”? What is it about philanthropy that is revolutionary? We recognize that philanthropy is a powerful force for good that contributes directly to mankind’s efforts to overthrow the false government of a limited, mortal sense of life in matter.
Philanthropy is revolutionary because it is an expression of divine Love; it leads us to understand and live wholly under the law of Love that meets every human need. “The Holy Spirit takes of the things of God and showeth them unto the creature; and these things being spiritual, they disturb the carnal and destroy it; they are revolutionary, reformatory, and—now, as aforetime—they cast out evils and heal the sick” (’01 9:22-26). And “Science is absolute and final. It is revolutionary in its very nature; for it upsets all that is not upright” (Miscellaneous Writings 99:1-2).
Let’s touch on some of the other influences and effects Mrs. Eddy ascribes to philanthropy. At the 2016 conference of Christian Science nursing organizations, we learned that a national benevolence fund for Christian Science nursing is being organized under the auspices of The Principle Foundation. Such a fund is a new possibility, with the promise of great achievements, needing the focus of fresh energies, and it surely is the result of awakened lofty desires. A national benevolence fund for Christian Science nursing has the potential for extending to others across the country, even in more remote areas, the kind of benevolent financial assistance that always has been given by Fern Lodge.
Philanthropy “lays the axe at the root of the tree that bringeth not forth good fruit.” Christian Science nursing is philanthropic. It offers clear, prayerful, healing assistance for those who are struggling with claims of sickness, disease, accident, mental imbalance—all fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a Scriptural symbol of the belief that man is separated from God, Life, Mind, and subject to sin and death.
When it is rightly understood and practiced, and when it is motivated by philanthropy—by love for God and man—Christian Science nursing is a systematic, spiritual activity, and its success in healing is assured.
The board, staff, students, patients and volunteers at Fern Lodge are moved by philanthropy. And as we continue to pray, consider deeply, and put into daily practice the benevolent love for mankind that springs from God’s love for each of His children, we will see the fruits of philanthropy abundantly meeting the daily needs of everyone—meeting the needs of patients for care and financial assistance, meeting the needs of Christian Science nurses for spiritual insight and inspiration, and bringing strength and endurance coupled with joy and unending hope.
Thank you for all your support for Fern Lodge. “The good done and the good to do are his ever-present reward” (Miscellany. 288:6).