World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



For those who do not pursue a religious vocation, the offering is most often a donation of money and material possessions to honor God and support the community of the faithful. The liberal donor puts the wealth and honor of God and God's representatives ahead of his own needs; through his donation he offers what he holds most dear. As a standard for the faithful giver, the Bible recommends a tithe, or ten percent of one's earnings. Through such gifts the believer is promised a place in heaven.

Contributions to the faith are not always distinguished from Charity, pp. 987-92, to the less fortunate. In the Qur'an, the duty to give alms covers both meanings interchangeably, though Islam sometimes distinguishes zakat, the obligatory tithing to the religious authorities, from sadaqa, meaning alms-giving to the less fortunate above the legal requirement. In Islamic and Christian societies, mosques and churches typically devote most of the funds contributed for the faith to charitable purposes: to feed, clothe, and tend to the needs of the poor, infirm, widows, orphans, and homeless.

On the other hand, religious offerings differ from charity given directly to the poor in that they are meant to show devotion to God or to those who represent Truth in the highest degree. Thus, some of the pass- ages in the latter part of this section address the questions of how and to whom donations should be given. For an offering to have the highest spiritual merit, both the donor and the recipient should be worthy. The donor should give with a pure mind and without expecting any reward or benefit from his gift. As to the recipient, he should be worthy: in Buddhist terms he should be a suitable "field of merit" where the donations that are sown may bear abundant fruit.

Every sacrifice is a boat to heaven.

Hinduism. Satapatha Brahmana

He who gives liberally goes straight to the gods; on the high ridge of heaven he stands exalted.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.125.5

You will not attain piety until you expend of what you love; and whatever thing you expend, God knows of it.

Islam. Qur'an 3.92

All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord.

Judaism and Christianity. Leviticus 27.30

As water surely will wash away blood, so the giving of food to homeless or virtuous saints will certainly destroy the sins incidental to a house- holder's life.

Jainism. Samantabadhra, Ratnakarandasravakacara 114

Verily, misers go not to the celestial realms. Fools do not indeed praise liberality. The wise man rejoices in giving and thereby becomes happy thereafter.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 177

We should resolve to offer not only one tenth but three tenths of our earnings for the building of the Kingdom of God. One tenth is for your country, one tenth is for the people of the world, and one tenth is for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 4-15-61

And [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury [of the Temple], and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."

Christianity. Bible, Mark 12.41-44

The word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this temple lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts: 'Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe your- selves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them in a bag with holes.... Go up to the hills, and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory', says the Lord."

Judaism and Christianity. Haggai 1.3-8

Weeds are the bane of fields, lust is the bane of mankind. Hence what is given to those without lust yields abundant fruit.

Weeds are the bane of fields, hatred is the bane of mankind. Hence what is given to those rid of hatred yields abundant fruit.

Weeds are the bane of fields, delusion is the bane of mankind. Hence what is given to those rid of delusion yields abundant fruit.

Weeds are the bane of fields, craving is the bane of mankind. Hence what is given to those rid of craving yields abundant fruit.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 356-59

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in God's way is as the likeness of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. God gives increase manifold to whom He will. God is All-embracing, All- knowing.

Those who spend their wealth for the cause of God and afterward make not reproach and injury to follow that which they have spent; their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.

Islam. Qur'an 2.261-62

When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Christianity. Matthew 6.3-4

O you who believe, spend of the good things which you have earned, and of that which We bring forth from the earth for you, and seek not the bad with intent to spend it in charity when you would not take it for your- selves save with disdain; and know that God is Absolute Owner of Praise...

Whatever alms you spend, or vow you vow, lo! God knows it. Wrongdoers have no helpers.

If you publish your almsgiving, it is well, but if you hide it and give it to the poor, it will be better for you, and will atone for some of your ill-deeds. God is Informed of what you do....

And whatever good thing you spend, it is for yourselves, when you spend it not save in search of God's countenance; and whatever good thing you spend, it will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged.

[Alms are] for the poor who are straitened for the cause of God, who can- not travel in the land [for trade]. The unthinking man accounts them wealthy because of their restraint. You shall know them by their mark: They do not beg of men with importunity. And whatever good thing you spend, lo! God knows it.

Those who spend their wealth by night and day, by stealth and openly, verily their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.

Islam. Qur'an 2.267-74

A gift is a gift of integrity when it is given at the right place and time to the proper person, To one who cannot be expected to return the gift-- and given merely because it should be given. But what is given to get a gift in return, or for the sake of some result, Or unwillingly, That is a gift in the sphere of passion. A gift is called slothful when it is given not at the right time and place, Nor to a worthy person, nor with proper ceremony, but with contempt.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 17.20-22

He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Christianity. Matthew 10.41-42

Those who build shrines of stone, Of sandalwood or aloes, Of brick and tiles, or clay; Or those who, in the wilds, Built Buddha-shrines of earth; Even children who, in play, Gathered sand for a Buddha's stupa; Such men and beings as these Have all attained to Buddhahood.

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 2

Just as much seed sown in a sterile field will not yield abundant fruit nor please the husbandman, even so, bountiful giving bestowed upon the wicked does not yield abundant fruit, nor delight the donor. And just as when scanty seed is sown in good ground the harvest gladdens the farmer when there is plenty of rain, even so when paid to the righteous, the virtuous, a deed, though it be slight, becomes merit fraught with great return.

Buddhism. Petavatthu ii.69-71

Qur'an 3.92: Cf. Qur'an 108.1-2, p. 866; 47.38, p. 937. Leviticus 27.30: The custom of giving a tithe, or ten percent of one's income, is derived from this verse. Mark 12.41-44: Cf. 2 Corinthians 9.6-11, p. 836. Haggai 1.3-8: This was the attitude of the Pilgrims, who when they arrived in America, first built the church and school before providing for their own homes. Dhammapada 356-59: The notion that the saints are a field of merit is behind the metaphor in these verses. Cf. Digha Nikaya ii.88, p. 372. Qur'an 2.267-74: These and Qur'an 2.261-62 (above) are verses selected from a long discussion of donations (zakat). Verse 273 condemns indiscriminate acts of charity, and defines the proper beneficiaries as those doing volunteer service, religious teaching and ministry, those in exile, and those persecuted for their faith. Lotus Sutra 2: Cf. Hadith of Ibn Majah, p. 1015. Petavatthu ii.69-71: Many of the stories in this book deal with the spirits of the departed, "hungry ghosts" who fail to find satisfaction from the food offerings made by their kinfolk. They return to their kin and explain to them that they would be far more satisfied were they to make offerings to the Sangha in their name. Cf. Khuddaka Patha, Tirokudda Sutta, p. 374.


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