Monday, June 10, 2013
Giving and Giving
I've been reading Taking You Soul to Work by Paul Stevens. In Chapter Eleven, he presents the Ladder of Charitable Giving as articuled by the 12th Century Jewish mystic Maimonides. Nine hundred years later, too many of us have not learned from his important insights. Here is the ladder from the lowest form of charity to the highest form.I note how the recipient of the charity feels indebtedness in that scheme. There are two important points that flow from that. The first is can one ever feel indebted to the government? Since the government takes from us by coercion, it is difficult to feel indebted to it - it is more like "justice" because you are robbing a robbers. There is also, in American at lease, a sense of entitlement to the charity when it is government coerced, since our government is a protector of rights and all.
- A person gives, but only when asked by the poor.
- A person gives, but is glum when giving.
- A person gives cheerfully, but less than he or she should.
- A person gives without being asked, but gives directly to the poor. Now the poor know who gave them help and the giver, too, knows whom he or she benefited.
- A person throws money into the house of someone who is poor. The poor person does not know to whom he or she is indebted, but the donor knows who has been helped.
- A person gives a donation n a certain place and then turns his or her back in order not to know which of the poor has been helped, but the poor person knows to whom he or she is indebted.
- A person gives anonymously to a fund for the poor. Here the poor person does not know to whom he or she is indebted, and the donor does not know who has been helped. But, the highest is this:
- Money is give to prevent another from becoming poor, such as providing him or her with a job, teaching the person a trade, or setting up the person in business. Thus, the recipient will not be forece to the dreadful alternative of holding out a hand for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder.
This is why the whole Robin Hood thing never sat well with me - coercion somehow negates much that is necessary in the cycle of charity. If there is no sense of indebtedness, there is no motivation to get out of the need.
Which leads to my second point. When it comes to discussing God's grace in our salvation we often forget that there is am implied debt that comes with the grace. We preach "unconditional grace," but we forget to remind people that such should still make them feel a sense of indebtedness. This is why the church cannot simply be about preaching salvation - it must also be about building character.
character charity indebtedness salvation