I think verses 177 and 189 in Surah Baqarah are the only 2 ayahs in the Quran that talk about what Birr is not, and what it is. Very beautiful.
لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَالْمَلآئِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُواْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاء والضَّرَّاء وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces to the East, and the West; but righteousness is that one believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and gives wealth, despite it's love (or, out of His love), to relatives, and to orphans, the helpless, the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and (spends) in the (freeing) slaves and observes the prayers and pays the Zakah; and those who fulfil their promise when they promise and, of course, the patient in hardships and sufferings and when in battle! Those are the ones who are true, and those are the God-fearing (2:177)
Mufti Shafi Uthmani writes in his tafseer:
Birr is an umbrella word in Arabic used for what is good in the absolute sense, and which combines in itself all acts of righteousness and obedience, inward or outward.
Often, we're so busy perfecting rituals. We're so busy gaining all the knowledge we can, yet our actions and intentions don't seem to synergise.
This verse comprehensively presents the Islamic injunctions:
- First, the articles of faith
- Then, dealings with people
- Finally, mention of morals.
Such are the true Muslims, and they are the ones who are God-fearing.
-> Spending wealth should be out of love for Allah, or/and, spending from that which you love. One should also be satisfied with what he spends: not that the hands spend, and the heart aches.
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ وَلَيْسَ الْبِرُّ بِأَنْ تَأْتُوْاْ الْبُيُوتَ مِن ظُهُورِهَا وَلَـكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنِ اتَّقَى وَأْتُواْ الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
They ask you about the new moons. Say: They are indicative of time for the people, and of the Hajj. And it is not righteousess that you come into your houses from their backs but righteousness is that one fears Allah. And come to the houses through their doors. And fear Allah so that you may be successful.(2:189)
During the times of Jahiliyyah, people used to enter their houses from the back, as it was forbidden to do so from the front in the state of Ihram. This ayah adds 2 more injunctions:
And we should not undermine the importance of the lunar months. Know your dates.
But the most important message is to keep fearing Allah, so that we can hope to have the best of both the worlds.
For further reading, the tafseer is here: Maariful Quran