The Benefits of GivingMarch 25, 2022 - 12:00 am
The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor. — Proverbs 22:9
We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.
Rabbi Israel Salanter, a 19th-century scholar, taught: “Someone else’s material needs are my spiritual responsibility.” But in order to fulfill that spiritual responsibility we must develop our souls by helping others fill their physical needs. In Judaism, we believe that this is best achieved by regularly giving a smaller amount of charity as opposed to giving one large gift and then refraining from giving the rest of the year.
Just as we need to exercise a muscle regularly in order to make it stronger, we need to give consistently in order to fully develop the trait of generosity. One very practical way we do this is by placing tzedakah (charity) boxes in our homes and places of gathering. In this way, we give ourselves the opportunity to give charity every day. The tzedakah box serves as a daily reminder that there are people in need of our assistance and provides a way for us to do our part to help every day.
The Benefits of Giving
The way I see it, we bless ourselves when we help those in need. By giving charity, we improve our own character, we align ourselves with God, and we reinforce our own feelings of love and concern for everyone around us. Of course, the primary goal is taking care of others, but the benefits of giving are real and meaningful. Jesus taught this same idea when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
We see this same idea expressed simply and beautifully in Proverbs which teaches that, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9).
Most people understand this verse to mean that God will bless us materially if we are generous to the poor. This is certainly true and is taught in many places in the Bible. But I think there is another meaning to the blessing in this verse.
As I said above, the real blessing that we get when we give generously to the needy is the blessing of our own spiritual growth. When we give to the poor, we have the honour of actively participating in building God’s kingdom and being His messengers on this earth. What’s a greater blessing than that?
Your turn: Set aside a cup or bowl where you put a small gift to the poor every day. When it fills up, look for a way to use it to help the needy.