Degrees of charity

The Medieval Jew, Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204). He defined charity’s eight degrees by ranking them:

  1. A person gives, but only when asked by the poor.
  2. A person gives, but is glum when giving.
  3. A person gives cheerfully, but less than he should.
  4. A person gives without being asked, but gives directly to the poor. Now the poor know who gave them help and the giver, too, knows whom he has benefited.
  5. A person throws money into the house of someone who is poor. The poor person does not know to whom he is indebted, but the donor knows whom he has helped.
  6. A person gives his donation in a certain place and then turns his back so that he does not know which of the poor he has helped, but the poor person knows to whom he is indebted.
  7. A person gives anonymously to a fund for the poor. Here the poor does not know to whom he is indebted, and the donor does not know whom he has helped.

But the highest is this:

  1. Money is given to prevent another from becoming poor, such as providing him with a job or by teaching him a trade or by setting him up in business and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity’s golden ladder.[i]

[i] Quoted in William E. Diehl and Judith Ruhe Diehl, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (Minneapolis: Augsburg Books,2003), 129-30.

Article courtesy of Dr. Paul Stevens.


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