The Highest Form of Charity
Dear Friend of The Fellowship,
Both Jews and Christians should pause occasionally to ask ourselves what our motivation is for giving charity. Do we, for instance, engage in acts of charity with a glad heart, grateful at the opportunity to help someone less fortunate? Or is it with a grudging heart — giving that comes only out of a sense of duty or obligation? If we’re honest, most of us would admit that it depends on the circumstances.
In Judaism, we distinguish between eight levels of charity that are based on our attitude toward giving. For example, at the lowest level of charity is one who gives, but gives grudgingly. The next level is one who doesn’t give enough, but does so gladly. Next is the person who gives to the poor after being asked, followed by someone who gives to the poor before being asked. Other levels of charity have to do with whether the recipient knows his or her benefactor, or whether the benefactor knows the recipient.
The highest form of charity in the Jewish tradition is giving someone the means to support himself. This could mean giving someone a loan or entering into a partnership with that person, or finding that person employment — equipping him to take care of himself and his family.
This is the type of charity that we at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have been able to provide for needy Jews in Israel and around the world through the generosity of our supporters — helping people stand on their own feet and becoming self-sufficient. I know personally from the letters we receive from our donors that this giving is done both sacrificially and lovingly. It is, indeed, the highest form of charity.
As Moses reminded the people of Israel, and as Jesus taught his disciples, the poor will always be with us. It is up to each one of us to decide how we will respond. As God’s Word commands us, we are to be openhanded when it comes to the less fortunate, give what we can to provide for their needs (Deuteronomy 15:11), and do so with gladness of heart.
My friends, may we all continue this historic partnership between Jews and Christians that has resulted in so much good for needy Jewish people all over the globe. And may we also know the joy of engaging in the highest form of charity — the joy that comes when we help our brothers and sisters in need to stand on their own two feet, and give with an open, joyful heart.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
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