For those who do not pursue a religious vocation, the offering
is most often a donation of money and material possessions to
honor God and support the community of the faithful. The liberal
donor puts the wealth and honor of God and God's representatives
ahead of his own needs; through his donation he offers what he
holds most dear. As a standard for the faithful giver, the Bible
recommends a tithe, or ten percent of one's earnings. Through
such gifts the believer is promised a place in heaven.
Contributions to the faith are not always distinguished from Charity,
pp. 987-92, to the less fortunate. In the Qur'an, the duty to
give alms covers both meanings interchangeably, though Islam sometimes
distinguishes zakat, the obligatory tithing to the religious authorities,
from sadaqa, meaning alms-giving to the less fortunate above the
legal requirement. In Islamic and Christian societies, mosques
and churches typically devote most of the funds contributed for
the faith to charitable purposes: to feed, clothe, and tend to
the needs of the poor, infirm, widows, orphans, and homeless.
On the other hand, religious offerings differ from charity given
directly to the poor in that they are meant to show devotion to
God or to those who represent Truth in the highest degree. Thus,
some of the passages in the latter part of this section address
the questions of how and to whom donations should be given. For
an offering to have the highest spiritual merit, both the donor
and the recipient should be worthy. The donor should give with
a pure mind and without expecting any reward or benefit from his
gift. As to the recipient, he should be worthy: in Buddhist terms
he should be a suitable "field of merit" where the donations
that are sown may bear abundant fruit.
Every sacrifice is a boat to heaven.
1. Hinduism. Satapatha Brahmana
He who gives liberally goes straight to the gods;
on the high ridge of heaven he stands exalted.
2. Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.125.5
You will not attain piety until you expend of what
you love; and whatever thing you expend, God knows of it.
3. Islam. Qur'an 3.92
All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of
the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy
to the Lord.
4. Judaism and Christianity.
As water surely will wash away blood, so the giving
of food to homeless or virtuous saints will certainly destroy
the sins incidental to a householder's life.
5. Jainism. Samantabadhra, Ratnakarandasravakacara
Verily, misers go not to the celestial realms. Fools
do not indeed praise liberality. The wise man rejoices in giving
and thereby becomes happy thereafter.
6. Buddhism. Dhammapada 177
We should resolve to offer not only one tenth but
three tenths of our earnings for the building of the Kingdom of
God. One tenth is for your country, one tenth is for the people
of the world, and one tenth is for the Kingdom of Heaven.
7. Unification Church. Sun Myung
And [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury [of the
Temple], and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and
put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his
disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you,
this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing
to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance,
but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her
8. Christianity. Bible, Mark
The word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet,
"Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled
houses, while this temple lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says
the Lord of Hosts: 'Consider how you have fared. You have sown
much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough;
you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves,
but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put
them in a bag with holes.... Go up to the hills, and bring wood
and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and that
I may appear in my glory', says the Lord."
9. Judaism and Christianity.
Weeds are the bane of fields, lust is the bane
of mankind. Hence what is given to those without lust yields abundant
Weeds are the bane of fields, hatred is the bane of mankind. Hence
what is given to those rid of hatred yields abundant fruit.
Weeds are the bane of fields, delusion is the bane of mankind.
Hence what is given to those rid of delusion yields abundant fruit.
Weeds are the bane of fields, craving is the bane of mankind.
Hence what is given to those rid of craving yields abundant fruit.
10. Buddhism. Dhammapada 356-59
The likeness of those who spend their wealth in
God's way is as the likeness of a grain which grows seven ears,
in every ear a hundred grains. God gives increase manifold to
whom He will. God is All-embracing, All- knowing.
Those who spend their wealth for the cause of God and afterward
make not reproach and injury to follow that which they have spent;
their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come
upon them, neither shall they grieve.
11. Islam. Qur'an 2.261-62
When you give alms, do not let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret;
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
12. Christianity. Matthew 6.3-4
O you who believe, spend of the good things which
you have earned, and of that which We bring forth from the earth
for you, and seek not the bad with intent to spend it in charity
when you would not take it for yourselves save with disdain; and
know that God is Absolute Owner of Praise...
Whatever alms you spend, or vow you vow, lo! God knows it. Wrongdoers
have no helpers.
If you publish your almsgiving, it is well, but if you hide it
and give it to the poor, it will be better for you, and will atone
for some of your ill-deeds. God is Informed of what you do....
And whatever good thing you spend, it is for yourselves, when
you spend it not save in search of God's countenance; and whatever
good thing you spend, it will be repaid to you in full, and you
will not be wronged.
[Alms are] for the poor who are straitened for the cause of God,
who cannot travel in the land [for trade]. The unthinking man
accounts them wealthy because of their restraint. You shall know
them by their mark: They do not beg of men with importunity. And
whatever good thing you spend, lo! God knows it.
Those who spend their wealth by night and day, by stealth and
openly, verily their reward is with their Lord, and there shall
no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.
13. Islam. Qur'an 2.267-74
A gift is a gift of integrity
when it is given at the right place and time to the proper person,
To one who cannot be expected to return the gift--
and given merely because it should be given.
But what is given to get a gift in return,
or for the sake of some result,
That is a gift in the sphere of passion.
A gift is called slothful when it is given
not at the right time and place,
Nor to a worthy person,
nor with proper ceremony, but with contempt.
14. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita
He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet
shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous
man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's
reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup
of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he
shall not lose his reward.
15. Christianity. Matthew 10.41-42
Those who build shrines of stone,
Of sandalwood or aloes,
Of brick and tiles, or clay;
Or those who, in the wilds,
Built Buddha-shrines of earth;
Even children who, in play,
Gathered sand for a Buddha's stupa;
Such men and beings as these
Have all attained to Buddhahood.
16. Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 2
Just as much seed sown in a sterile field will
not yield abundant fruit nor please the husbandman, even so, bountiful
giving bestowed upon the wicked does not yield abundant fruit,
nor delight the donor. And just as when scanty seed is sown in
good ground the harvest gladdens the farmer when there is plenty
of rain, even so when paid to the righteous, the virtuous, a deed,
though it be slight, becomes merit fraught with great return.
17. Buddhism. Petavatthu ii.69-71
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Qur'an 3.92: Cf. Qur'an 108.1-2, p. 866; 47.38, p. 937. Leviticus
27.30: The custom of giving a tithe, or ten percent of one's income,
is derived from this verse. Mark 12.41-44: Cf. 2 Corinthians 9.6-11,
p. 836. Haggai 1.3-8: This was the attitude of the Pilgrims, who
when they arrived in America, first built the church and school
before providing for their own homes. Dhammapada 356-59: The notion
that the saints are a field of merit is behind the metaphor in
these verses. Cf. Digha Nikaya ii.88, p. 372. Qur'an 2.267-74:
These and Qur'an 2.261-62 (above) are verses selected from a long
discussion of donations (zakat). Verse 273 condemns indiscriminate
acts of charity, and defines the proper beneficiaries as those
doing volunteer service, religious teaching and ministry, those
in exile, and those persecuted for their faith. Lotus Sutra 2:
Cf. Hadith of Ibn Majah, p. 1015. Petavatthu ii.69-71: Many of
the stories in this book deal with the spirits of the departed,
"hungry ghosts" who fail to find satisfaction from the
food offerings made by their kinfolk. They return to their kin
and explain to them that they would be far more satisfied were
they to make offerings to the Sangha in their name. Cf. Khuddaka
Patha, Tirokudda Sutta, p. 374.
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