The 8 Levels of Jewish Giving
Several centuries ago, a Jewish man named Maimonides concluded that there are eight levels of giving. He believed that God grants merits, and we obtain more merits if we give the best way and fewer merits if we give the least way.
I find his eight points interesting, and here at the end of my series on tithes and offerings, I wanted to share some of his thoughts with you.
[Click here to watch Stephen’s video about the eight levels of giving.]
Before we begin, it’s important to understand that Jewish givers and Christian givers are not the same thing. Christian giving is based on the Bible and the belief that Jesus Christ is the Savior. Jewish givers do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, nor do they recognize the New Testament; however, they do acknowledge the same God and value the Old Testament.
The Jewish conversation about giving interests me because it comes from a community that esteems God and has established rules and thoughts around the subject of generosity. Understand that what we are about to discuss is not Scripture; we’re just learning more about giving. I look at the following points as a broader concept of giving.
Here are Maimonides’ eight levels of giving, starting with the lowest level.
8. The Grouchy Gift
According to Maimonides, the lowest level of giving occurs when a person gives grudgingly. That thought intrigues me because it echoes what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6–7:
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Did Paul influence Maimonides? I don’t know, but it is interesting that both men held a similar belief.
7. Giving Less Than You Should and Being Happy About It
I think this description of giving is hilarious. So the person is happy to be giving…yet they aren’t giving as much as they should. That’s better than a grouchy gift, but it’s still really low on the list.
6. Giving to the Poor When Asked
Think of when you’re driving through town and see someone standing on the corner with a cardboard sign that reads, Out of Gas. Please help. Or perhaps someone comes up to you on the street and says, “Please help me. I haven’t eaten in days.”
Maimonides considered granting someone’s request for help to be a fairly low level of giving.
5. Giving to the Poor Without Being Asked
This is when you’re aware of the need and meet it without being asked.
4. Giving When You Don’t Know the Recipient
In this situation, you don’t know who received your money, but the recipient knows you gave it.
3. Giving When You Know the Recipient, but They Don’t Know You
These are the situations when we slip a donation to someone on the sly—perhaps in their Bible, under their door, or in some other “hidden” way. We obviously know who received it, but the recipient doesn’t know who gave it.
2. Anonymous Giving
This is the anonymous giving and receiving that happens in our churches and nonprofit organizations. On Sunday mornings we drop money in the plate as it passes, and we don’t know where that money is going because our church leaders administrate it for us.
Similarly, the recipient doesn’t know who gave the money because it came from the church or nonprofit.
1. Giving a Gift to Sustain Someone
In the mind of a practicing Jew, the best and highest gift is one that prevents someone from slipping into poverty. You can give this precious gift in four ways:
You can give a substantial gift that keeps the person out of poverty.
You can extend a loan to prevent poverty.
You can help the person find employment either by giving them a job or showing them how to get a job. (This means synagogues are like unemployment offices.)
You can establish the person in business, making it unnecessary for them to become dependent. You could give the person a business idea or place them in a business opportunity, so they don’t fall beneath the line of poverty.
While He was on the earth, Jesus ministered out of extravagant generosity and abundance. Supernatural stewardship flows from a heart that trusts God completely and knows what God is really like. May you be able to give generously and cheerfully, and may your giving be powerfully multiplied in God’s hand.
Click the links below to read other articles by Stephen on this topic: