December 5     

Today's quotation:

The Hebrew word for "charity," tzedakah, simply means "justice" and as this suggests, for Jews, giving to the poor is no optional extra but an essential part of living a just life.

Peter Singer

Today's Meditation:

I've never been wealthy, nor does it look like I ever shall be, but I do try to make it a point to give when I can.  Charity is an element of life that I believe enhances our lives greatly not just because we're giving to others, but because we're living in harmony with life when we make it a point to share our blessings with others.  Some people use charity to make themselves feel better, but most people who give do so because they feel that it's the right thing to do.

And I really do believe that it is the right thing.  I would not say that anyone needs to give a certain amount-- ten percent could be easy for one person but a terrible burden for another-- but I would say that we each need to look at what we have and decide what we can realistically pass on to others in gratitude for the blessings that we have.  Yes, I work for my money, but I'm also able to earn money because of the work of many people who have come before me, many people who have created the systems and infrastructures that allow me to work where I do.

I like applying the term "justice" to the giving of what we have to others-- or rather, the sharing of what we have with others, whether we know them or not.  Justice seems to be a fitting term because it implies a balance, and it implies the right thing being done.  Yes, we can keep every cent that we earn for ourselves, and we can decide not to share the wealth that we've been blessed with, but then it seems that life is off-kilter, just a bit skewed, for then we're erring on the side of taking, and on the side opposite of giving.

Robert takes it a bit further below.  How much of the wealth of the richest people is earned through the labor of the poor?  How many people have become rich through the sacrifices of those people who must work long, hard hours simply to put food on the table?  When we keep in mind that all people are unified in heart and spirit, we start to realize that the well-being of everyone is important to all of us.  Justice is an important concept to anyone who wants to live a fair and compassionate life, and we can contribute to justice by sharing the plenty that we've been given with those who have not nearly as much.

Questions to consider:

What's the difference between "justice" and "charity"?

How might we find ways to share what we have without causing undue hardship for ourselves?

Why do so many people feel that the poor have "brought on their poverty themselves"?

For further thought:

One important aspect of justice, Jose Miranda reminds us, involves the restoration of what has been stolen.  Giving food to the hungry or clothing to the naked is not a charitable handout but an exercise in simple justice-- restoring to the poor what is rightfully theirs, what has been taken from them unjustly.

Robert McAfee Brown

more thoughts and ideas on charity



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