Better to Give? For What?

I said to the minister, “During your sermon you spoke the whole time about the human spirit, yet in the last minute of it you said we should give to the poor. So that, in the end, you are really concerned, not about the spirit, but about material things: dollars, clothing, foodstuffs, et cetera. So, you think that giving material things to a person who has little of those things will improve his spirit? How? What is the connection between possession of more things and improvement of the spirit? And how do you know that a poor man’s spirit is not already in a better state than a rich man’s spirit? And if that is the case, shouldn’t the rich in spirit be giving something (who knows what?) to the poor in spirit?”

The minister was dumbfounded, did not know how to reply, could only mumble something about it being better to give than to receive. To which I replied, “The word ‘better’ is both a material and a moral term. Materially, the man who gives is not better off, but worse off. According to your moral prescription, the man who receives is not morally better off, either. Allegedly, the man who gives is morally better, but that would mean that the decrease of material possessions is the standard, and only hope, for moral betterment. Unless the whole purpose of giving is to exalt the giver, and we should care not at all about the receiver, then the rich man could just throw his goods into the ocean. But if that is the case, then why care about them—the poor—in the first place? What did you say? You don’t like people who think? I know you don’t.”

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