December 21, 2013

The Duty of Almsgiving and the Hope of a Return From God

By His Eminence Metropolitan Daniel
of Kaisariani, Vyronas and Hymettus

In the period preceding the feast of the divine epiphany there is conducted in our Church a Fundraiser of Love. Believers are called to offer their alms for the relief of our needy brethren. This Fundraiser of Love is more necessary now in this prevailing economic, social and humanitarian crisis which affects more and more an increasingly larger portion of our people. We judge the building up and enhancement of this ministry will reflect the way we live philanthropically and give to charity.

1. The Duty of Almsgiving

As it is taught by the word of God, almsgiving is a religious practice, and not merely social and altruistic.

This is why almsgiving is linked to the liturgical life. Generosity towards the poor is part of the conduct of divine worship and the eucharistic assembly of the Church.

In the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, almsgiving together with prayer and fasting are the three pillars of the spiritual life.

It is certain that in order for the faithful to approach the Bridegroom of the Church, they must help their neighbor (1 John 3:17).

The celebration of the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist requires the brotherly distribution of goods (1 Corinthians 11:20).

To glorify God, the faithful must freely give and sow generosity, because "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 6:9).

2. The Value of Almsgiving

The Wisdom Writings of the Old Testament present the view that alms given to the poor acquire value, because a) it is considered a loan to God Himself (Proverbs 19:17) and b) it is considered a sacrifice of praise to God (Wisdom of Sirach 35:2).

The Lord taught His disciples to give alms without hoping for a return (Matthew 6:1-4), gave meaning to almsgiving that the offering was being made to Himself (Matthew 25:31-46), and established almsgiving as a requirement for someone to be His disciple and to follow Him without regretting the abandonment of their goods (Matthew 19:21).

3. The Duty of Almsgiving Gives the Merciful One a Certain Hope for a Return from God

"Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. The Lord protects and preserves them — they are counted among the blessed in the land — He does not give them over to the desire of their foes. The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness" (Psalm 40 (41):1-3).

4. The Forms of Almsgiving

The Prophets pointed out the ways to practice almsgiving. They expanded the scope to cover many types of behaviors which express compassion, justice, respect and consolation to the helpless people around us (Ezekiel 18:7).

5. The Punishment of the Uncharitable

Ignoring the poor combined with luxurious and wasteful living is condemned and subject to severe punishment, like that of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49; Proverbs 14:21).

6. When A Believer Denies Himself of His Goods, Through Almsgiving He Stores a Treasure in Heaven, According to the Command of the Lord

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:33-34).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.