World Scripture


Giving alms to the poor and hospitality to strangers are traditional virtues encouraged by all religions. A relationship to the Highest Good naturally builds a bond among all members of the community--for all people are as brothers and sisters with the absolute value of (potential) Enlightened Beings or God's children. Giving alms and charity is a concrete expression of this spiritual bond. Along with admonitions to practice charity, texts such as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats from the New Testament, liken helping a poor man to giving offerings to God or the highest saints. Charity is not excused even for the poorest giver, according to several texts. Finally, we have passages on hospitality, including two texts lauding exemplary acts of charity, by a companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hindu householder Rantideva, who gave food and water to guests even though it meant that they would have to go without.

Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord delivers him in the day of trouble.

1.Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 41.1

They feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan, and the prisoner, for love of Him, saying, "We wish for no reward nor thanks from you."

2.Islam. Qur'an 76.8-9

Charity--to be moved at the sight of the thirsty, the hungry, and the miserable and to offer relief to them out of pity--is the spring of virtue.

3.Jainism. Kundakunda, Pancastikaya 137

Psalm 41.1: Cf. Var Sarang, M.1, p. 846. Qur'an 76.8-9: Cf. Qur'an 2.264, p. 428; 16.90, p. 827; 90.8-17, p. 584.

"Ye shall walk after the Lord your God" [Deuteronomy 13.4]. But how can a man walk after God who is a devouring fire? [Deuteronomy 4.24]. It means, walk after His attributes: clothe the naked, visit the sick, comfort the mourner, bury the dead.

4.Judaism. Talmud, Sota 14a

Relieve people in distress as speedily as you must release a fish from a dry rill [lest he die]. Deliver people from danger as quickly as you must free a sparrow from a tight noose. Be compassionate to orphans and relieve widows. Respect the old and help the poor.

5.Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way

Every person's every joint must perform a charity every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take in prayers is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.

6.Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 26

Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is of kin, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler, and to [slaves] that your right hands own. Surely God loves not the proud and boastful such as are niggardly, and bid other men to be niggardly, and themselves conceal the bounty that God has given them.

7.Islam. Qur'an 4.36-37

If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.... You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him; because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and the poor, in the land.

8.Judaism and Christianity. Deuteronomy 15.7-11

Sota 14a: Cf. Gittin 61a, p. 68. Tract of the Quiet Way: Cf. Great Learning 10.7-9, p. 806. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 26: Cf. Hadith of Ibn Majah, p. 847. Qur'an 4.36-37: Cf. Qur'an 2.177, pp. 741f.; 107.4-7, p. 427. On the Prophet's charity, see Hadith, p. 596. Deuteronomy 15.7-11: Cf. Matthew 6.1-4, p. 428.

The gods have not ordained that humans die of hunger;
even to the well-fed man death comes in many shapes.
The wealth of the generous man never wastes away,
but the niggard has none to console him.

He who, possessed of food, hardens his heart
against the weak man, hungry and suffering,
who comes to him for help, though of old he helped him--
surely he finds none to console him.

He is liberal who gives to anyone who asks for alms,
to the homeless, distressed man who seeks food;
success comes to him in the challenge of battle,
and for future conflicts he makes an ally.

He is no friend who does not give to a friend,
to a comrade who comes imploring for food;
let him leave such a man--his is not a home--
and rather seek a stranger who brings him comfort.

Let the rich man satisfy one who seeks help;
and let him look upon the long view:
For wealth revolves like the wheels of a chariot,
coming now to one, now to another.

In vain does the mean man acquire food;
it is--I speak the truth--verily his death;
he who does not cherish a comrade or a friend,
who eats all alone, is all sin.

9.Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.117.1-6

There are three kinds of persons existing in the world: one is like a drought, one who rains locally, and one who pours down everywhere.

How is a person like a drought? He gives nothing to all alike, not giving food and drink, clothing and vehicle, flowers, scents and unguents, bed, lodging and light, neither to recluses and brahmins nor to wretched and needy beggars. In this way, a person is like a drought.

How is a person like a local rainfall? He is a giver to some, but to others he gives not.... In this way, a person is like a local rain- fall.

How does a person rain down everywhere? He gives to all, be they recluses and brahmins or wretched, needy beggars; he is a giver of food and drink, clothing... lodging and lights. In this way a person rains down everywhere.

10.Buddhism. Itivuttaka 65

When the Holy One loves a man, He sends him a present in the shape of a poor man, so that he should perform some good deed to him, through the merit of which he may draw a cord of grace.

11.Judaism. Zohar, Genesis 104a

Itivuttaka 65: This and the other Hindu and Buddhist passages in this section take a different point of view from the Hindu and Buddhist doctrine of the Field of Merit, in Dhammapada 356-59, p. 751; Petavatthu ii.69-71, pp. 752f.; Bhagavad Gita 17.20-22, p. 753, which regards only people of spiritual attainment as the proper recipients of gifts. Cf. Great Learning 10.9.

Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the griefs on the Day of Judgment. Whosoever alleviates the lot of a needy person, Allah will alleviate his lot in this world and the next. Whosoever shields a Muslim, Allah will shield him in this world and the next. Allah will aid a servant of His so long as the servant aids his brother.

12.Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 36

When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Then he will say to those at his left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then the they also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?" Then he will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me." And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

13.Christianity. Matthew 25.31-46 : Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

On the day of judgment God Most High will say, "Son of Adam, I was sick and you did not visit Me." He will reply, "My Lord, how could I visit Thee when Thou art the Lord of the Universe!" He will say, "Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was ill and yet you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you had visited him you soon would have found Me with him?"

14.Islam. Hadith of Muslim

Matthew 25.31-46: Cf. Matthew 19.21-24, p. 805; Luke 10.25-37, p. 829.

All beings should be accommodated and served by me as attentively as I would show filial respect to my parents, due respect to my teachers, to elders, and arhats, up to the Tathagatas, all in equality. I would be a good physician to the sick, a guide to those who have wandered from the path, setting their feet in the right way. I would be a light to those who wander in darkness. I would enable the people in poverty to discover vaults of treasure. A bodhisattva should thus benefit all beings in equal treatment, and bestow his loving care on all beings alike. And why? because if a bodhisattva serves all beings, that is equal to serving Buddhas dutifully. To hold all beings in high esteem, and render them respectful services, that is equal to reverencing and serving the Tathagatas. To make all beings happy, is to please the Tathagatas.

15.Buddhism. Gandavyuha Sutra, Vows of Samantabhadra

One should give even from a scanty store to him who asks.

16.Buddhism. Dhammapada 224

Even a poor man who himself subsists on charity should give charity.

17.Judaism. Talmud, Gittin 7b

Not having enough of anything can cause one to become a miser.

18.African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.

19.Christianity. Luke 3.11

See to it that whoever enters your house obtains something to eat, however little you may have. Such food will be a source of death to you if you withhold it.

20.Native American Religions. A Winnebago Father's Precepts

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

21.Christianity. Hebrews 13.1

Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbor, and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.

22.Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 15

The husband and wife of the house should not turn away any who comes at eating time and asks for food. If food is not available, a place to rest, water for refreshing one's self, a reed mat to lay one's self on, and pleasing words entertaining the guest--these at least never fail in the houses of the good.

23.Hinduism. Apastamba Dharma Sutra 8.2

Yoruba Proverb: Meaning that since it is bad to become a miser, you should give even though you yourself are in need. Hebrews 13.1: Cf. Hitachi Fudoki, pp. 744-45. Apastamba Dharma Sutra 8.2: Cf. Hitachi Fudoki, pp. 744-45.

According to Abu Hurairah, a man came to find the Prophet and the latter asked his wives for something to give him to eat. "We have absolutely nothing," they replied, "except water." "Who wants to share his meal with this man?" asked the Prophet. A man of the Companions then said, "I." Then he led this man to his wife and said to her, "Treat generously the guest of the Messenger of God." She replied, "We have nothing except our children's supper." "Oh, well," he replied, "get your meal ready, light your lamp, and when your children want supper, put them to bed." So the woman prepared the meal, lit the lamp, put the children to bed, then, getting up as if to trim the lamp, she extinguished it. The Companion and his wife then made as if to eat, but in fact they spent the night with empty stomachs. The next day when the Companion went to find the Messenger of God, the latter said to him, "This night God smiled." It was then that God revealed these words, "and they prefer the others before themselves, although there be indigence among them" [Qur'an 59.9].

24.Islam. Hadith of Bukhari

The fame of Rantideva is sung in this and the other world, Rantideva, who, though himself hungry, was in the habit of giving away his wealth as it came, while trusting in God to provide his needs. Even in time of famine, Rantideva continued his generosity though his family was reduced to poverty.

For forty-eight days he and his family were starving; a little liquid, and that enough for only one, was all that remained. As he was about to drink it, an outcaste came begging for water. Rantideva was moved at the sight and said, "I do not desire from God the great state attended by divine powers or even deliverance from rebirth. Establishing myself in the hearts of all beings, I take on myself their suffering so that they may be rid of their misery." So saying, the compassionate king gave that little liquid to the outcaste, though he himself was dying of thirst.

The gods of the three worlds came and desired to bestow upon him manifold blessings, but Rantideva, who had no attachment or desire, merely bowed to Lord Vasudeva [Krishna] in devotion.

25.Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 9