goes over the theme quite a lot. The moral is that we do anything because we expect some kind of personal gain. Nobody is truly
Some people do these things because they expect an increase in prestige. What increases people's respect for you any more than helping others? If I had a million dollars, I could spend half of that on a good car, which would make people jealous of me. Or I could spend it on charity, which would make people love me.
Some people do these things out of empathy. You've probably heard the term "pass it on". I've been given quite a lot of money by strangers and they only made me promise to "pass it on". The concept here is that they've been low on resources at some point or another and promised to God or some other entity that if they could get the money they need at that time, they'd pass it on to someone in need.
Some people think that there's a higher power that judges their good acts. They may seem selfless in that they expect no reward from other humans, but they do expect a reward from a higher power.
Historically, the early Islamic empire was built on charity. Muslims are expected to pay somewhere between 2.5%-20% of their income to charity. It's considered charity because the money doesn't go into building structures or paying wages for leaders (unlike taxes), but directly into helping the poor, freeing slaves, feeding the crippled, etc. Not giving charity was punishable by death. A lot of people at the time actually donated far more of their wealth.
That charity money improved social mobility, as the poorest people had enough money to work their way into middle class. It also bought a lot of goodwill. I doubt it's possible to really convert people by the sword. But being generous to people is a great way to convert them. If someone knocked on your door and tried to preach to you, would you shoo them? What if they knocked on your door, gave you money you badly needed, then preached to you?
Their power came from spiritual wealth and prestige rather than material wealth and they used their excess material wealth to buy that spiritual wealth.
I did apply to MIT and Harvard at one point in my life but didn't get in. After interviewing all the people who did get accepted, I find that while some had worse scores and even worse communications than me, all
of them had one thing in common - a history of charity. Even if it was a small one. Of course, this was a tiny sample size, but I'm sure it helped.
Personally, I donate and do a lot for charity. Ever since I was 13, I'd give a sizeable amount to charity. I find that it pays back very well. People will automatically have a positive view of a charitable person. It keeps you from getting greedy - your motive in doing things is to put that money to good use. Good people tend to be attracted to those who are not greedy. I make most of my present contacts from charitable deeds. And those contacts have pretty much doubled my salary in 1 year. You'll also fall into the same clique as millionaire philantropists... people who are happy to give you a financial boost or at least pay you very well for helping them.
Overall, I'd say charity pays damn well. It's even more powerful because nobody does it. It's hard to be outstanding in a group of politicians or a group of academics, but surprisingly easy to be outstanding in a group of philantropists.