Giving to others
by Helen Gwynne-Kinsey
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the nature and importance of charity.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Charity) and the means to display them.
- When someone performs a charitable act, he or she is demonstrating a basic human response: helping those who cannot provide for themselves. Such is the importance of charity that helping others in need has an important place in society.
- However, charitable acts are not only about handing over money. We can also show kindness and mercy to those who are in difficulty by giving up our time to help. In Jewish communities, such giving of one’s time and effort is known as ‘an act of loving-kindness’. An important aspect of an act of loving-kindness is that it is something that anyone can do, both rich and poor alike, and it is done without expecting anything in return.
- An important Jewish scholar called Maimonides identified eight stages of charity. These have become known as the ‘ladder of charity’.
Show Slides 1 and 2.
- Beginning at the lowest rung of the ladder, each step brings a person closer to the ideal.
Show Slides 3 and 4 and read through each rung of the ladder.
- According to Maimonides, the closer you get to the top of the ladder, the more significant your giving becomes. For example, Maimonides pointed out that it can be far better to lend someone money to start their own business than to give someone a straightforward handout. This also means that the borrower can avoid feeling embarrassed or losing self-respect.
- Charity is also a vital part of the Muslim faith, and the practice of Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Zakat involves giving away 2.5 per cent of one’s wealth each year to benefit the poor and needy in society. In this way, the rich contribute more than those who have less money, and the poor pay nothing at all.
- Christianity also emphasizes the importance of charity. However, it stresses that it should be done for the right reason - that of helping others - rather than to receive praise for our good deeds. Indeed, Jesus taught that, ‘When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’
Time for reflection
Show Slide 5.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, summed up charity in the following ways.
- ‘Generosity consists not the sum given, but the manner in which it is bestowed.’
- ‘The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.’
Let each of us develop an awareness of the needs of others, and work either individually or as a community to help in the best possible way.
May we look for ways to help those in need.
May we be generous in all situations.
May we learn to consider the needs of all those we meet.
May we all realize the power of kindness.