What Would Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Krishna Say?
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss civic virtue and its role in democracy.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.

The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the religious tradition of giving and its impact on the exercise of responsible citizenship. With this multiple perspective, students will define the basis for their own responsible civic behavior.

PrintOne Sixty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • through the use of source documents, identify how different faith traditions define responsible civic behavior.
  • compare similarities related to giving among five faith traditions.
  • evaluate the relevancy of the civic behavior as described by religious leaders.
  • The Starfish Story (Attachment One)
  • “Hands” by Jewel, from the CD Spirit (see Attachment Two for the lyrics)
  • Mohammed: Zakat - the Alms Tax (Attachment Three), one copy of the assigned story for each group member
  • Buddha: An Economy of Gifts (Attachment Four), one copy of the assigned story for each group member
  • Krishna: Some Wise Words (Attachment Five), one copy of the assigned story for each group member
  • Krishna: Bhagavad Gita (Attachment Six), one copy of the assigned story for each group member
  • Moses: The Ten Commandments (Attachment Seven), one copy of the assigned story for each group member
  • Jesus: The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Attachment Eight), one copy of the assigned story for each group member
  • Summation Chart (Attachment Nine), one large copy for posting on the board
  • Rubric for Letter Writing (Attachment Ten), one copy for each student
  • Self-stick notes
Home Connection: 

None for this lesson.


Bhagavad, Gita. http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-17-20.htm (June 17, 2003) [no longer available] 

Bhikkhu, Thanissaro. An Economy of Gift. http://www.buddhadust.org [no longer available]

Bible passages from Deuteronomy and Luke http://www.Biblegateway.com 

Eiseley, Loren. The Star Thrower . New York: Harvest Books, 1979. ISBN: 0156849097

“Hands” lyrics by Jewel Kilcher, music by Jewel Kilcher and Patrick Leonard http://www.endor.org/jewel 

Jewel. “Hands” from Spirit . Atlantic. Audio compact disk. AISN: B00000F1CY

Zakat: The Alms Tax https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/societies/islamic/islam/charity/htm

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read The Starfish Story ( Attachment One ) which describes the difference a single person can make by exercising responsible civic behavior OR play a recording of “Hands” on the CD Spirit by Jewel ( Attachment Two ) .

  2. Familiarize the learners with the following terms:

    • charity (money or help given to aid the needy; an organization, fund or institution whose purpose is to aid those in need – derived from the Christian concept of caritas, meaning love of one's neighbor)

    • civic behavior ( participation as a citizen in citizenship-related actions)

    • responsible citizenship (fulfilling a person's duty or obligation to their community as a citizen)

    • faith traditions ( an organized system of beliefs, rites and celebrations centered on a supernatural being or power)

  3. Returning to either listening activity, engage students in a discussion of whether they believe helping others is important and whether or not it reflects responsible civic behavior. Let their ideas stay open-ended, rather than engaging in debate. Explain that there have been many individuals throughout history who have presented ideas regarding responsible civic behavior. The class will explore some of those ideas.

  4. Divide the class into small groups. Distribute the handouts, giving each group a different religious tradition to explore. (Note: Hinduism has two handouts, due to length.) Ask students to read the text and determine what civic behavior is suggested toward self, leaders (humans or gods), neighbor and society in general. (Prior to the beginning of class, post the Summation Chart ( Attachment Nine ) , on your board or wall.

  5. After the groups agree on the characteristic behaviors, send a representative to fill in the appropriate blocks on the chart for the religious tradition they explored.

  6. Allow time to read the completed chart. Distribute self-stick notes and have each student write down what s/he sees as common behaviors among the five traditions. Students should sign their papers and post them in the last column of the chart.

  7. Give students time to read each other's ideas or ask each student to share his/her observations aloud. Allow time for any discussion or question that may arise following this sharing.

  8. ​Move students back into a whole group. Have them take two or three minutes to quietly reflect whether or not they think that the ideas of the religious leaders are relevant in today's society.

  9. Distribute Rubric for Letter Writing ( Attachment Ten ) . Ask the students to write a letter to one of the five leaders explaining why they agree or disagree with that individual's idea regarding civic behavior. Opinions should be substantiated with specific ideas related to society today. Go over the rubric with the learners.

  10. If time permits, invite the sharing of letters, either today or in a subsequent class.


Observation of student discussion, completion of a summary chart, a written response and a student letter will assess student learning.