Week 2, Day 1: Alms, Alms For the Poor

Matthew 6:1-4; Luke 12:33,34

When I was a little girl, my sisters and I used to go around mimicking the old animated Disney version of Robin Hood: “Alms,” quakes Robin Hood (a caped fox wearing a blind man’s sunglasses), “Alms for the poor.” We would close our eyes and stumble around the room with one hand held out to receive alms and the other hand groping about, all the while giggling, “Alms, alms for the poor.” You can only imagine the conversation when we discovered that “Alms for the poor” is in the Bible!

Giving alms to the poor in this day and age is tricky business. I once worked for a property management company that went to great efforts to get a homeless man into an apartment. A couple months later, while the man was still living in the apartment, one of our maintenance men saw him standing in a parking lot with a sign that read: “Homeless. Anything helps.”

Some of the same issues and situations apply to ministries among orphans. How do you know that the ministry is on the up and up? I have run into this over and over. I cannot tell you how many times I have been approached and asked for money by ministries or individuals who had done absolutely no research into me, what I stand for or what our ministry goals and purposes are. I’ve been given no actual proof upon request that these ministries are actually working with orphans, and they strangely seem to disappear at the suggestion that they meet with someone in their country whom I know and trust. This is just one of the reasons that it is so important for local churches to take the lead in this ministry.

Stories such as these often put us in awkward situations and bring up lots of questions. Is this person truly homeless? Are they truly in need? At other times the “everyone is doing it” factor comes into play. Or, you might be pressured by the one in need. These are the times to step back and make sure that you are taking the right action. Be sure your heart is where it is supposed to be and that God is leading – we don’t want to be like Ananias and Sapphira. (See Acts 5:1-10.) Let the Lord truly lead you. Here are some good questions to keep in mind:

1. Is this a need God wants me to meet?

2. Is this the way God wants me to meet it?

3. Is my attitude right in meeting this need?

4. Is this a need that only God can meet?

As much as we want to meet every need and fix every situation, there are some needs that only God can meet. Especially, when it comes to emotional and spiritual needs. While we may be able to offer guidance and counsel, the need is primarily met between that person and God. Examine the situation prayerful and do as the Lord directs you to do.

Beyond all this, there is something else that often makes us ill at ease when it comes to almsgiving… The fact that their need may come when we ourselves are in need. Jesus does not want that to be an issue. “Fear not, little flock,” He said.

I’m reminded of a story that J. Hudson Taylor told of his pre-china days. He was taken to visit a family that was living in extreme poverty. While there he saw their great need and argued with himself that if the coin in his pocket (his last) had been in a different form he would have given part of it. And then he argued that had it been in yet another form he would have given a greater part of it. But his heart was failing to trust God to give them all. He tried to comfort the family, but could offer them no true comfort. Then he thought perhaps he could pray for them, but as soon as he began to pray God convicted him of the hypocrisy of telling that family to trust God as Father when he was still unwilling to do so himself. He got up and gave them his last coin. He went home with a light heart. He knelt in prayer before going to bed and reminded God that His Word says, “He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord”, and that the loan should not be too long or there would be no dinner on the morrow! In the morning, a package came unexpectedly. The writing was illegible, the postmark smudged.  Inside, were a pair of gloves and a coin. A much larger coin than the one he had parted with the night before. As he put it, “Four hundred percent for twelve hours investment – that is good interest!” *

Jesus didn’t stop at the idea of giving the last coin in our pocket. He went a step further. “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33,34)

“Sell that ye have.” Gulp. Wow. That’s getting personal. It is something to consider prayerfully and not to enter into rashly. (Again, I reference Ananias and Sapphira.) Although, sometimes we just know what God wants us to do. In fact, in every situation that I have sold something to meet a ministry need, or the needs of others, God has made what I was to do very clear in my heart before I even had time to consider it. The point is: we need to be ready to do it. We need to let go of our hold on things, and take hold of the guiding, providing hand of God. It is most often easier said than done, but it is His desire for us.

The Lord gives some very specific direction about how we are to be giving our “alms”. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of our Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

God doesn’t want us to go around boasting about what we are giving to others. That is hypocritical. He wants our gift to be first and foremost to Him. When we give in secret, He is faithful to reward us openly. This is one of the most amazing blessings in our walk with the Lord because it touches one of the most critical areas of our lives intimately. Learning to rely on Him completely in this area of our lives, deepens our ability to trust Him in every area of our lives. Let God prove Himself to you!

*From “Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor” by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, pp 40-43

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One thought on “NT 2:1 Alms, Alms For The Poor

  1. Very well put, convicting too. Do I even give a passing thought to such ideas or do I just “like my stuff” and go about my business as usual? Hope I’ll be open to God’s direction. Sometimes I think of things to sell, but only from a sort of “survival” standpoint or to get rid of something not really wanted or desired. That might be a good source of an offering instead. Hmmmmm! Thanks, Rachel.

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