Looking for merit (or not)

I have always wondered where it is mentioned in Buddhism that giving alms to the Maha Sangha (priests) is more meritorious than giving to the needy.

Today I found the source:

A man looking for merit thereby, may offer food and other necessaries to the whole world in the course of a whole year; but all that amounts not to a fourth part of the homage paid to an upright man.
– Sahassa Vagga, Dhammapada

Now I have the answer, but it is still a dilemma.

Where I am from, it is difficult to get a day to offer meals to a priest at the temple because the people in the area are highly organised and dates are divided among a lot of families. The priests will not want for food.

But on the other hand there are orphanages and old people’s homes which are really needy. The case has worsened since the outset of the financial crisis. Many people have no money to spare for good deeds anymore. Or they prefer to do other things.

So in that case, isn’t it better to give alms to such a place rather than clamour to somehow force the priests in the closest temple?

I might just go ahead and give money and food to the orphanages etc. After all, you need to worry about this only if you are seeking merit.

So I believe I’d settle for simple peace of mind and social justice any day.

Also, to me, doing things just for merit when there are other things that need to be done somehow seems wrong. I really want to know what the Buddha would say to this.

For all I know, he might agree with me that feeding the needy is a better thing than forcing food on well fed priests.

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