One of the most profound life lessons I’ve learned when I was yet in the seminary was finely articulated by the Latin maxim: “Nemo dat quod non habet.” Nobody can give what he/she does not have.
Which stands to reason, is obvious and quite self-explanatory. You cannot give anything – be it tangible or intangible – if you do not have it.
You cannot give money if you have no money. You cannot give the moon because you do not possess it. You cannot give love if you yourself cannot feel it.
Inversely, could “Nemo non indigetis quod habet,” – nobody can’t need something which he/she already has – be also true? In the abstract, yes. You would not need the P1 million already in your hands – you could only want or be in need of “more.”
You would not need a certain kind of love you already enjoy – you could only wish for more love.
But in reality, could one be in a state of complete “non habet” or “not having” such that he or she is incapable of giving? Or could one really be in a complete state of “non indigetis” or “not in need” such that he or she is incapable of receiving or needing more?
Based on experience, it is quite impossible to say: (1) one is completely incapable of not giving because he or she has nothing to give, and (2) one is completely incapable of needing because he or she already has everything.
Is anyone then so poor as to be unable to give or share anything? Is anyone so rich such that he or she can’t beat someone’s receiving end?
The fact is, you see rich people unwilling to give. On the other hand, you see poor people more generous than the rich.
Indeed, even the impoverished have something to give or share – their time, their love, their kindness, and even the very scarce, if any, tangible resources they have.
A Bible parable about a poor widow (Luke 21:1-4) illustrates this quite vividly. The widow had gone to the temple to pray and, with all humility, deemed it fit to donate to the treasury two coins of very small worth, while the rich ones were putting in large amounts.
What did Christ say about her? “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth; but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
No one is so rich that he or she would not need to receive anything. This will always be true through all ages until the end of time.
Life or success is not all about wealth, fame or power.
The richest and the most powerful among us can never be completely immune from need or longing for a satisfying life – one which cannot be provided by worldly riches.
In sum, there are two bottom lines about us, human beings: We are all in a constant state of “becoming,” hence, we will always be in need of one thing or the other; two, we are all subject to our natural calling or purpose, which is to give, to share, to love.