Practicing Tzedakah (Doing Righteousness)

Jewish people have practiced righteousness (Tzedakah) for thousands of years. It is commanded in the Bible. So what does it mean to practice righteousness? In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream was being interpreted by Daniel. He told the king that, though he was made great, he would be made to dwell among the animals and eat the grass of the field as they do. Daniel concluded: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Daniel 4:27 ESV).

Practicing righteousness as linked to helping the poor. Unlike charity, every person is obligated to do what is right and just. The second highest form of this is to give donations anonymously. But the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will enable the poor person to support himself. This is not as much and individual responsibility as it is a communal one. We can see this in Acts 2 and 4 when the believers sold property and possessions so that there wasn’t a poor person among them.

The poor also had a responsibility to practice righteousness by doing all they could to provide for themselves. They, too, gave what they could. People who practice righteousness by helping those in need are given prosperity by God to repeat that cycle, so long as their intentions are to genuinely help the poor. Putting God first in the workplace means that the work we do is to practice righteousness and help others become productive also.