A number of days ago, I saw a beautiful picture depicting an act of generosity and an act of hoarding between two young lads and that raised some fundamental questions deep within me. This act of hoarding to a large extent has become a classical perennial problem in the lives of so many, an attitude or a disorder that always prompt people to beg, acquire or accumulate even when they don’t need it or have in abundance. Although to some, this picture depicts a mere frivolous act while to others, it’s an act of greediness and selfishness. However, it is important to appreciate those who extend their act of generosity to those around them without any form of compulsion. Among these three religions that have a foundational recourse to Abraham(Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious traditions) there is an encouragement towards a variety of charity practices including hospitality to strangers and generous private assistance to the poor and the needy.
The Jewish religion emphasized the concept of charity or generosity loosely interpreted as tzedakah in the Hebrew language and it is the hallmark of Jewish tradition. Most Jews, regardless of their economic status, heed their religious and cultural obligations to give and because it has a theological root even those who aren’t religious still give generously. “The traditional Jewish belief is that we have an obligation to leave this world better than we found it. What we give is not so much for our own enjoyment, but to sustain and improve the world for the current as well as the next generation. It is really not a choice, but rather a requirement, to make our entire community a better place for everyone” The Torah tells us, “You shall surely open your hand to the poor and the destitute of your charity” (Deuteronomy 15:11). In another place it is written that “Israel will be redeemed by its acts of charity”.
Therefore, the Jewish tradition obliges her members to be generous because it is a mandate from Adonai. Within the Christian community, generosity (sacrifice) has always been one of the crux ministry of Jesus and the early Apostles. (Acts 4:32-35). Primarily, every Christian is expected to be generous because the foundation of the Christian religion is an inevitable outcome of a genuine act of generosity. (John 3:16). Hence, every Christian is called to a life of true generosity because we are told that generosity attracts blessings. A typical example is the woman of rank as reported in (2 Kings 4:8-11,13-16) received her blessings because she extended her act of kindness to Elisha the Prophet of God. And the Prophet said to her “This time next year, ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’” And that was a turning point in her life. And 1 Peter, 4: 8 says; “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.”
Furthermore, the Islamic religion tells us that Prophet Mohammad (PBH) is the plenitude of all prophets, and generosity was among his countless good qualities in fact the Holy Quran has it that he was the most generous of people and he used to be most generous during Ramadan season. Generosity is the willingness to give freely from one’s heart without any leverage. This act of generosity is firmly encouraged in Islam and is among the five pillars of Islamic religion which is known as sadaqa. Linguistically, the term sadaqa means truthfulness, and some Islamic scholars have described it as the heart being truthful to its Creator. “Anything given generously – freely to others – with the intention of pleasing God is sadaqa. Sadaqa can be as simple as a smile, helping an elderly person with their groceries or removing objects from the road or path.”
Generosity can be viewed as a wise investment in the future. It paves the way to Paradise because “with every generous act comes great reward from God. However, being generous does not only mean giving freely from what you have in abundance. Generosity does not lie in giving away something that is no longer useful but in giving freely from the things we love or need.”The holy Quran says: “Be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity. Whatever good you send forth for your souls before you, you shall find it with Allah. For Allah sees well all that you do” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:110) In our contemporary time, many of us “have taken an oath in our anger not to be charitable due to our previous encounters, while for some, whether ‘the rivers are clapping their hands or not,’ it’s in their DNA not to be generous.
My dearest friends, it is good to be good because whatever good you do, (maybe in secret or in public) you shall receive your reward. To some, they feel and think others are “mumu or mugus” because they are always ready to give out, while others take those who genuinely give as an ATM. In Christendom, we don’t give arms because we expect a reward, No! we are charitable because it is part of our Christian teaching. Fulton Sheen will say: “True generosity never looks to reciprocity; it gives neither because it expects a gift in return, nor because there is a duty or obligation to give. Charity lies beyond obligation, its essence is the “adorable extra”. Its reward is the joy of giving.” Remember, generosity activates God’s mercy!!