Column: Stewardship and climbing Rambam’s ladder

Lesle Knop is the executive director of the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development. You can email her at: lesleknop@archkck.org
Lesle Knop is the executive director of the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development. You can email her at: lesleknop@archkck.org

by Lesle Knop 

In early November, the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas will recognize a Catholic family and a Catholic parish with its prestigious Deo Gratias award.

These awards are meant to acknowledge not only the faithful service to God demonstrated by the honorees, but also to focus attention on what it means to be Christian stewards.

I recently read a book called “Rambam’s Ladder” by Julie Salamon. The book is a meditation on generosity and why it is necessary to give. In the book, the author describes what the philosopher and physician known as Maimonides (known as Rambam) said when he developed the “ladder of charity” — a lesson on righteousness and obligation.

The eight stages or “degrees” on Rambam’s ladder begin with the first rung of the ladder, or “reluctance.” The individuals on this rung will contribute and give to a cause, but they do so grudgingly. As individuals recognize and develop their understanding of the nature of giving, they climb the ladder, getting higher and higher.

From reluctance, a person climbs to “proportion,” where an individual gives less to the poor than is proper, but they do so cheerfully. On the next level — “solicitation” — an individual will give money without being asked. The fourth level is “shame,” at which a person will give without being asked but will make the recipient feel embarrassed. The fifth level, “boundaries,” finds those who give to people they don’t know, but want their name to be known.

The sixth level is “corruption”: giving to someone you know, but the recipient does not know from whom he is receiving help. The seventh level is “anonymity,” in which we give to someone we don’t know and we give anonymously.

The eighth level is “responsibility.” At this level, we find the gift of self-reliance. We give help, a loan, or enter into partnership with someone so that they never again have to beg.

In other words, the anonymous giver ranks above the giver who wants to be known. The lowest giver is a reluctant giver. The highest givers are those who help individuals become self-reliant.

As I pondered my own motivation for giving, I couldn’t help but think of all those selfless, anonymous souls who give and give generously to participate in the mission of the church.

On Nov. 7, the CFNEK will honor many individuals, including those who have already climbed Rambam’s ladder.

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