According to my colleague Dr. Christian B. Miller, a philosopher who recently published an insightful book, The Character Gap: How Good Are We?, there are three criteria that our actions must meet in order to be considered generous:
- Is there evidence that the gift was important to the person, that she cared about it in some way?
- Does the person tend to give even when external rewards, such as publicity or tax benefits, do not come into play?
- Does the person seem to be donating out of a sense of obligation, or is this a free gift of money or time that she could have used in other ways?
You can read the full article here. He’s written in greater depth regarding this topic, and published what he thinks to have been just the fourth scholarly article on the virtue of generosity in a philosophy journal since the 1970’s. So, without going into all the nuts-and-bolts-and-footnotes, I have a question for you:
Consider the third point: A person cannot donate out of a sense of obligation or the gift is not generous. In philosophical terms, the gift must be supererogatory, that is, it must go beyond the call of duty. The gift cannot simply meet the required level expected. So, for those Christians who espouse the doctrine of tithing – to donate 10% of one’s income to the church – can this gift be considered generous? Or, for those who tend to give the same amount on a regular basis, having established a norm for giving, can the next gift of the same, personally expected amount, be considered generous? To put it even more plain: Can any person who ever gave any gift as required by Old Testament Law be considered generous?
What do you think?