Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.
“What are alms? What is almsgiving?”
Alms are money or goods given to those in need as an act of charity. The word alms is used many times in the King James Version of the Bible. It comes from the Old English word ælmesse and ultimately from a Greek word meaning “pity, mercy.” In its original sense, when you give alms, you are dispensing mercy.
Almsgiving is a long-standing practice within the Judeo-Christian tradition. “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31; see also Proverbs 19:17; 21:13; 22:9; and 29:7). Jesus and His disciples gave money to the poor (John 12:6), and believers are to “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). The godly Tabitha was eulogized as one who was continually “helping the poor” (Acts 9:36).
Who is the most charitable of all?
The best answer is “God“. He is the supreme lover of humanity, the alms-giver par excellence.
God is the source of every good thing. All the wonders of the cosmos, every person’s treasure of joys, abilities, and relationships… the list of God’s “alms” unfurl into infinity.
None of God’s gifts is substandard, like the tattered clothing and no brand canned goods we sometimes donate to charity. In-fact, one gift is so precious that it overshadows all the rest. Paul spoke of this gift as the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” and “the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3.7-11).
God lavishes His gifts on us, who are poor in ourselves and have no claim to them. His generosity sets the standard.
“You received without payment; give without payment,” Jesus tells the apostles – and us (Matthew 10.8).
Almsgiving is every Christians commission.
Whatever alms we are to, offer it as mercy. In fact, The New Testament Greek makes an explicit connection between alms and mercy: The word for the first is derived from the word for the second.
When the crippled beggar at the temple gate pleads for alms – that is, mercy – Peter offers what he has; not silver or gold, but a stunning expression of God’s Mercy (see Acts 3.1-10)
While few of us feel equipped to heal people who are disabled, few of us can plead inability to offer money or goods. Almsgiving is one of the charitable actions we call “corporal work of mercy.”
“Am I ready to give away what I have… because it’s not mine, it’s God’s? Am I ready to really give of my “gold” as a sacrifice, and not just as an afterthought? Now, there are many different ways to give alms. It’s not always a gift of money. When we look at the famous story of Matthew 25, when at the Last Judgment the sheep are divided from the goats and Jesus reveals all the good deeds—feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked — were done for him — that is almsgiving.
There are many ways to show charity, and “time” and “talent” are valuable gifts that the Church needs. But could I give more treasure? How often am I afraid to give financially… afraid to let go of that widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4), because I don’t trust? Because I forget that it’s not my money… it’s God’s?
Biblically, giving financially to those in need is an important expression of the Christian faith. However, we should make sure our giving is done out of a true love for God, without drawing attention to ourselves. When we invest what God has given us to impact the lives of others, we can trust that the results will make a difference both now and for eternity.
Above all, Almsgiving is a matter of giving love – that sees beyond its immediate recipient – to the Lord (see Proverbs 19,17).
Distressingly disguised in the needy, as Mother Teresa likes to say, It is Jesus who solicit our mercy.
Integrated Catholic Life, February 19, 2016 Joana Watson, The Challenge of Almsgiving
gotquestions.org, What are alms? What is almsgiving?
Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan