In a world where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is often painfully apparent, beneficent and philanthropic efforts by some of the world’s wealthiest sound pretty good. Two of America’s richest people, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have started a grass-roots effort they’re calling The Giving Pledge, which encourages their peers to donate at least half of their fortunes for the good of the global family. So far, Mr. Buffett has pledged to give away 99 percent of his $45 billion fortune and Mr. Gates most of his combined $54 billion.
The pledge, they say, as the Monitor reported, “is neither an effort to pool resources nor a call to raise funds for a cause. It is simply a moral commitment to give.”
Think about it: a moral commitment to give. This might begin with grass-roots efforts based on love for one’s fellow man and woman. The BBC reported that the “World Giving Index” ranked countries on their global generosity not just in terms of giving money but also time as a volunteer or helping a stranger. The index placed Australia and New Zealand at the top, the United States in fifth place, and the United Kingdom in eighth. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the poorer countries such as Sri Lanka, Guyana, and Turkmenistan ranked high in giving – as well as registering high levels of contentment.
Yet “moral commitment” suggests something deeper than human goodness – a quality of thought rooted in spiritual development. It brings to mind two parallel Bible accounts involving encounters people had with Jesus, with quite different outcomes.
The first was Zacchaeus, chief of the publicans and “very rich." Zacchaeus wouldn’t let anything stop him from seeing Jesus – and you could say from allowing the Christ, as “the spirit of God, of Truth, Life, and Love, which heals mentally,” to transform his character (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 137). Like an exuberant child, he climbed a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus. And then he went even “higher,” welcoming Jesus into his home, where his most cherished beliefs and practices were up for reevaluation. He ended the visit with a promise to the Master to give half of his goods to the poor, as well as restore four times as much to those he’d wronged. Zacchaeus had been labeled a sinner, and now Jesus proclaimed, “This day is salvation come to this house."
Then there was the young man who “had great possessions." He asked to know how to achieve eternal life – not something you can buy. On the outside, he sounded pretty good, obeying the Commandments from his youth, etc. Pressing Jesus for an answer to his question, he was finally told to sell everything he had, and give it to the poor – and then he’d gain “treasure in heaven.” Sadly, this was an impossible demand for the young man, as it may be for many of us. But Jesus wasn’t asking him to deprive himself or just give up things. His statement to his disciples following this incident is interesting: “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!”
Both of these men were touched by the Christ. But their individual mental states determined the blessing they received – or refused to receive. Without a willingness to move one’s trust in matter to a firmer faith in the unseen realities of divine Spirit, true healing and transformation don’t take place. The biblical adage that “God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:7) points to the fact that giving can’t deprive. When we give with the trust that divine Spirit truly is the great Provider, and that the source of abundance is never in matter, we gain the kind of freedom characterized by a heavenly state of mind. Zacchaeus glimpsed this truth, and he and his “house” – his consciousness – were renewed, blessing others in return. And it’s encouraging to think that the young man’s sorrow over losing his possessions may have turned into the joy of understanding that when we follow the Christ we can’t fail to have all that we need.
The Christ reminds each of us that our net worth is never measured by bank account balances, the rise and fall of the stock market, or property values. The more we look to God as the source of our stability and supply, rather than to human ability or the accumulation of wealth through time or circumstance, the more we gain the gift of a consciousness at peace and feel free to be givers. A tendency to blame adverse circumstances, a sliding economy, unemployment, or some other apparent cause, fades away. The Psalmist declares, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165).
The greatest gift we can give is healing. As we each open our thought to the healing messages of the Christ, we will receive the blessing – and find ourselves giving with cheer and confidence.
From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.