Was it ever mine?

The experience of giving isn’t an objective one:  our relation to the money we give and the attitudes we bring to bear directly impact our own experience and on our practice.

So much collected teaching and wisdom about giving rests in the religious traditions, and I’m just beginning to explore what this ancient wisdom has to teach us about modern giving.

All the major faiths place great emphasis on giving – how could they not, as giving binds a community together, keeps it coherent, ensures a level of well-being for members of the community and stability for the whole community.  In the Jewish tradition, one gives the maaser (1/10th of one’s wealth and 1/10th of one’s income) as tzedakah; this translated into the Christian tradition of tithing.  Islam has a similar tradition of zakat, the laws of which are specified in the Qur’an.

In all of these traditions, giving is completing the circle in one’s relationship with God.  Our abundance is a reflection of the blessings we have been given, and when we give we are returning some of that abundance.

Whatever your faith (and even if you not religious) there is wisdom here.  If we are in a position to give, we have been blessed with good fortune.  We have the honor of being in a position to help another.

How different this notion is from a sense of scarcity, of needing to learn to let go each and every time we give.  I find this notion freeing.  We approach giving with the knowledge that what we are giving away was never ours; we approach giving with a sense of humility and with the knowledge that good fortune has played a role in our own good circumstances, and we are passing on a bit of that good fortune to another.

7 thoughts on “Was it ever mine?

  1. Interesting topic Sasha, one that’s not often discussed publicly. I have always felt that paying tithing has been a personal insulation against greed and pride.

    When you look at the abundance of life as a gift and blessing – rather than the result of your own genius and efforts – it’s easier to share or give back some of that abundance. And that’s the humility you mention in your post – perhaps the least spoken of, but most needed virtue in the (corporate) world today.

  2. Luke, indeed I agree fully, and it was so interesting to write this post as it feels like one has to be very delicate in addressing these topics. Glad it resonated for you.

  3. Definitely agree with your post!

    A requirement/expectation to give should be written into your Manifesto for Nonprofit CEOs. If we are asking others to give to our causes, we should be leading by example by giving to our own and others causes as well.

    A lesson taught by Judaism:

    …as well as by nonprofit leaders here in the UK, particularly Dame Hilary Blume:

    As she says, if the giving is not hurting, then you are not giving enough!

  4. Sasha, have you read much Lewis Hyde or Charles Eisenstein? I wonder because your recent posts have more and more reminded me of (especially) Hyde’s work on gift cultures and the sanctity of the gift.

    If you haven’t, I’d definitely recommend checking out The Gift, as well as Hyde’s book on the Commons. Eisenstein just came out with a new book called Sacred Economics.

  5. Love this perspective! I am working for a faith-based organization for the first time and find that a mindset of abundance is extremely helpful for a fundraising team.

  6. Andrea, I have Lewis Hyde on my list, and Marcel Mauss (who also wrote a book called The Gift). Thanks for the Eisenstein recommendation too!

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