Parson to Person: “A 12th-Century Ladder of Love,” May 22, 2020

The Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1136-1204) once wrote a Guide for the Perplexed, in which he created a “ladder of charity” with 8 rungs on it:

  1. The lowest rung is to give, but to give reluctantly.
  2. The second rung is to give cheerfully, but not in proportion to the need.
  3. The third degree is to give cheerfully and proportionally, but not until you are asked.
  4. The fourth is to give cheerfully, proportionately, and without being asked, but in such a way that the receiver feels indebted to you.
  5. The fifth is to give cheerfully, etc., but without knowing who the receiver is.
  6. The sixth is to give cheerfully, etc., but without the receiver knowing who the giver is (i.e., anonymously)
  7. The seventh is to give so that neither giver nor receiver is known to one another.
  8. The highest degree is to make charity unnecessary by preventing poverty and injustice in the first place.


Recently I got my $1,200 stimulus check in the mail. Although it’s always nice to get extra money, people like me (semi-retired, no debts, no kids) don’t actually need the extra help–while many others (who can’t work from home or don’t have a job or who have kids, debts, or expenses) could really use a lot more than $1,200. I have decided to give part of my stimulus check to UCN’s endowment fund for social justice. The neat thing about this particular fund is that it uses the interest (generated by the principal) to do what Maimonides referred to as the highest rung on the ladder of charity, and it does so in perpetuity. Talk about “immortality of influence”!


I realize that not all of us at UCN can afford to give away all (or part) of our stimulus check. But for those who can, I recommend donating to some organization that works for justice in the community or the world. You won’t be known and thanked by future generations who are helped by your generosity; but in a way, isn’t that the coolest part of it all?


peace and unrest,