Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

Bob Hope used to say, “If you don’t have charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.” With that astute observation in mind, let’s consider Scripture’s teachings on charity toward our neighbor in the form of giving.

Our hectic lives, crowded as they are with the daily multitude of me-oriented busyness, can become overrun with a kind of creeping selfishness that we may not even be aware of. How often do we go out of our way to help others? True, most of us donate, here and there, to “worthy causes,” but don’t we usually give to organizations that either send us a “love gift” in return or, at the very least, provide us with the ever-popular tax-deduction? Few of us give alms to people who can do nothing for us in return.

Christ’s exhortation to “do good” to our neighbor is person specific. True, we should contribute to organizations, and of course we must do what we can to financially assist our local Church (parish and diocese), but we’re also called to help people, the poor and disadvantaged, the homeless and friendless, strangers, unwed mothers, indeed anyone who lacks the physical necessities of life. In Matthew 25:31-46 Christ says He will return as judge to reward the “sheep” and condemn the “goats” based on how they (that means you and I) assisted or failed to assist the “least” of His brothers and sisters with food, shelter, clothing, water, and their other basic needs. Ask yourself: On that day, will you be one of the sheep or one of the goats?

Let these Bible passages animate your zeal for helping others, especially through almsgiving -- giving money to those who legitimately need it more than you do.

Tobit 4:7-11 -- “Give alms from your possessions to all who live uprightly, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you make it. Do not turn your face away from any poor man, and the face of God will not be turned away from you. If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness; and for all who practice it charity is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.”

Luke 12:33 -- “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 -- “Charge the rich of this world not to be high-minded nor to trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God who gives us abundantly all things to enjoy, to do good, to be rich in good work, to give easily, to communicate to others, to lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the true life.”

2 Corinthians 9:10-12 -- He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.”

Hebrews 13:16 -- “[D]o not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Being generous is the first part of true charity that pleases God. The second part is just as important: that you not be showy or self-serving in your giving. Christ said:

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:1-4).

St. James said, “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas 2:14-17).

Acts 20:35 says, “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

In Luke 10:29-37 Christ tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, who gave aid and comfort and alms to a total stranger. It’s a story you surely know by heart, but has its meaning sunk into your heart? Read that passage prayerfully and remember Christ’s command to “Go and do likewise.”

Patrick Madrid is an author, public speaker, and the publisher of Envoy Magazine. Visit his web site at www.surprisedbytruth.com

Additional verses:

Sirach 3:30-31,17:20-23, 40:14;

Tobit 12:8-10;

Daniel 4:24;

Psalm 37:21;

Matthew 5:38-42;

Mark 12:38-44;

Acts 10:1-2;

James 1:27