The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 14: The Source of All Generosity


Abundance by Marcelo Campi. Click for source and license.


Krishna is telling Arjuna about karma yoga, the path of selfless service. He says:

Every selfless act, Arjuna, is born from Brahman, the eternal, infinite Godhead. Brahman is present in every act of service. (BG 3:15).

Listen to this verse from the letter of James. The similarity gives me chills:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17, NRSV)

God is the source of every act of giving. (The Greek is pasa dosis, “all giving”—I use the NRSV translation here, because the CEB confuses the giving with the gift. Click to compare).

I pointed out yesterday that there is an unfortunate tendency among religious people to discount the good works—and the spiritual wisdom—of other traditions. A former president of the Southern Baptist Convention claimed that God cannot hear the prayer of a Jew.

This is contrary to one of the definitive lessons of Jesus. When asked what one must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells the story of a Good Samaritan. Imagine telling this story in an evangelical fundamentalist church today: “A Baptist passes by an injured man on the side of the road. Then a Methodist. Then a non-denominational evangelical Christian all pass by. But a Muslim stops to help him, and goes above and beyond to heal him and keep him safe. You want eternal life? Try to love your neighbor the way an exemplary Muslim does.”

Imagine the outrage. They would probably crucify him!

“You will know them by their fruits,” Jesus says (Matthew 7:16). If the source of every act of generosity is God, then people—wittingly or unwittingly—have a connection to God. Whatever else may be said about them, they are imitating the One in whose image they are made. And it’s not merely a reflection: the act itself is the very action of God. This expansive, inclusive view of God seems much more in line with Jesus’s own teaching.

Krishna continues: There is nothing in the three worlds for me to gain, Arjuna, nor is there anything I do not have; I continue to act, but I am not driven by any need of my own. (3:22)

He goes on say If he were to stop acting in self-giving love, the cosmos would simply end. This is another reason good works don’t earn a reward. Participating in God’s self-giving goodness is the whole point. In truth, there is nothing else.

God, thank you for all that is, because it is all given of yourself. Your breath sustains existence itself. Though I often see only frailty and scarcity, I am part of your perfect, self-giving love to the world.