Stay Humble When Giving to OthersFebruary 10, 2022 - 12:00 am
It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD. — Exodus 28:38
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week’s Torah portion is Tetzaveh, which means “contributions,” from Exodus 27:20-30:10.
“It’s better to give than to receive.” We hear this all the time. In the Christian Bible, the author of the Book of Acts attributes this quotation to Jesus himself: “It is more blessed to give then to receive” (20:35).
And it couldn’t be truer. As someone who spends my life collecting and distributing gifts for the most needy and vulnerable, I thank God every day that I am able to be on the giving side of charity.
But there’s another side to being a giver that can — and should — give us pause. Sometimes, when we give to those who are less fortunate, there can be a little bit of ego that comes into play. People who can give — especially those who can give generously — can sometimes begin to feel superior to those who are receiving their help.
Many years ago, the Jewish sages referred to gifts to the poor as “bread of shame” because of the shame that often comes to those who receive charity. The flipside of this shame is the tinge of arrogance that we may slip into when we give. And let’s be honest, there is a feeling of self-satisfaction when we have made our gift to a good cause. If we’re not careful, this feeling can turn into haughtiness.
Stay Humble When Giving to Others
In this week’s Torah portion, among the garments of the High Priest is a plate of gold that was always worn on the High Priest’s forehead. On the plate of gold were engraved the words kodesh l’Adonai — “Holy to the Lord” — which served as a reminder of our need to stay humble when giving to others.
When describing the purpose of this gold plate, our verses for today tell us something very interesting: “It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD.”
The Bible says that wearing this gold plate will somehow atone for any “guilt involved in the sacred gifts” that the children of Israel brought for building the Tabernacle. What guilt could there be when giving sacred gifts to God? I’d like to suggest that this “guilt” is that tinge of haughtiness that often comes with giving.
The gold plate sat on the forehead, the place of thought. It reminds us that our thoughts must be pure when we bring offerings to God. The gold plate with its engraved words teaches us that even as we give to God, we must be careful to stay humble so that all that we give is “Holy to the Lord.”
Your turn: As you make your next charitable gift, say a special prayer for humility. Thank God for giving you the ability to give.