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The meaning and origin of the expression: Charity begins at home

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Charity begins at home

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Charity begins at home'?

A proverb that expresses the overriding demands of taking care of one's family, before caring for others.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Charity begins at home'?

'Charity begins at home' isn't from the bible but it is so near to being so that it is reasonable to describe it as biblical. The notion that a man's family should be his foremost concern is expressed in 1 Timothy 5:8, King James Bible, 1611:

But if any provide not for his owne, & specially for those of his owne house, hee hath denied the faith, and is worse then an infidel.

John Wyclif had expressed the same idea as early as 1382, in Of Prelates, reprinted in English Works, 1880:

Charite schuld bigyne at hem-self.

The first connecting of charity and home is found in the English satirist John Marston’s play Histrio-Mastix, (published in 1610 but may have been first performed in the late 16th century):

True charity beginneth first at home,
Heere in your bosomes dwell your deere-lov'd hearts,
Feed them with joy; first crowne their appetites,
And then cast water on the care-scroch'd face,
Let your own longings first be satisfied,
All other pitty is but foolish pryde.

Sir Thomas Browne was the first to put the expression into print in the form we now use, in Religio Medici, 1642:

Charity begins at home, is the voice of the world: yet is every man his greatest enemy.

[Note: My thanks to Peter Lukacs, ElizabethanDrama.org for the 1610 citation.]

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