Charity is not just an activity but also a mentality
Charity is usually thought of as an activity, the action of contributing to some worthy cause.
But the Bhagavad-gita (16.01) lists charity as a quality. Why?
Because for the godly who are described in this section of the Gita, charity is much more than an activity – it is a mentality, an inner disposition that expresses itself in regular charitable activity. When the godly give gifts to others, especially to Krishna in a devotional mood, internally they give themselves the best gift: the opportunity to relish the joy of selfless sacrifice and thereby progress towards developing divine selflessness, selflessness in the service of the divine.
Those who consider charity to be merely an activity focus not on the inner spirit but the other show. They obsess over how big and noticeable is the charity they give, and how much recognition and glorification they get. Such charity is nothing but a gift to one’s own ego – it is a characteristic of the ungodly, as the Bhagavad-gita (16.15) indicates.
Moreover, obsession with externals restricts the charity of the self-centered to those occasions when they can give a lot and thereby gain a lot of glory. Such occasional charity doesn’t foster the spirit of giving and so doesn’t give them the chance to taste the sweetness of selflessness.
In contrast, regular charity, irrespective of the amount given, helps us take steady steps towards selflessness. By cultivating the mentality to give in the service of Krishna, we relish a joy that lies beyond both the pain of losing our hard-earned money and the pleasure of being glorified as charitable – the spiritual joy of selfless devotion. This joy eventually brings complete and everlasting fulfillment, which is the best fruit of charity, indeed the ultimate perfection of life.
"Fearlessness; puriﬁcation of one’s existence; cultivation of spiritual knowledge; charity; self-control; performance of sacriﬁce; study of the Vedas; austerity; simplicity… – these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature."