Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. — Deuteronomy 15:10
This month, I’m sharing with you weekly devotions from my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children. These devotions are tied to the Jewish principle of tzedakah, charity, and how we teach our children to be generous and giving.
From a young age, my parents were very clear about the importance of giving to the needy. As soon as we had any source of our own money, they taught my sisters and me the biblical principle of the tithe — giving ten percent of our money to charity (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26). So when we earned babysitting money, we automatically set aside a tenth of what we made for charitable giving.
However, my parents were not interested in merely teaching us to give our money to charity. Their ultimate goal was for us to become generous people — people who looked past our own desires and concerns and saw the needs and challenges of others. There was no better way to teach us this lesson than through their living example.
I remember one particular night, as I lay in bed, there was a knock on our front door. My father was sitting on the edge of my bed, singing me to sleep, while my mother was busy putting my sisters to bed. My father got up from our nighttime routine to answer the door, finding a complete stranger who he immediately realized was there to ask for charity. This was actually very common in Jewish communities where the needy felt they could ask for help from fellow Jews. Most people handed the beggars some money, wished them a good night, and got on with their busy schedules.
But not my parents.
My parents would always invite the needy man or woman inside our home, sit them at our dining room table, and serve them a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. One or both of my parents would sit with our guest and listen intently to their story, hearing their problems, sometimes discussing an idea from the Bible. Only afterward did they give whatever we could afford to the person and send them on their way.
This night was no different, and the man was welcomed into our home as an honored guest. The fact that my parents interrupted our nightly routine for the sake of an unexpected stranger in need left an indelible impression on me. It taught me that helping a person in need, even a complete stranger, is of utmost importance, and requires our immediate attention. Not later. Not the next day. Now.
I learned from my parents that giving comes in many forms and that a generous person gives in all ways. Yes, my parents gave their money, but they also gave generously of their time, their effort, their attention, their compassion, and their love. Most importantly, they gave joyfully with a full heart.
Download a complimentary sample of my new book, Generation to Generation, at generationbook.org to learn more about passing on our faith to the next generation.