“This is my favorite place to eat. They have great food, excellent service, and John, through his charity, gives back to the community.” I raise my glass reluctantly, joining the chorus of cheers as everyone at my table toasts John, the owner of a fashionable local restaurant.

Although I agree that the food is wonderful and the service is exemplary, I take issue with the notion that charity involves “giving back.” To say that John “gives back” means that he is returning something that does not belong to him—that what he has received he did not earn and that he is merely returning it to its rightful owner. Is this how we should think of John’s charitable giving? . . .

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