Although we do not usually call this practice “almsgiving,” we are called to engage in it regularly as faithful Christians. Almsgiving means giving to the needy, helping the poor, taking care of those who are less fortunate, and giving yourself to the needs of others. Charity is also another way of talking about almsgiving.
John Wesley calls us to almsgiving with the right attitude. He was passionate about our doing more than just providing physical needs like shelter, food, and clothes for the poor. He felt that if one’s spiritual needs are not looked after, then tending to one’s physical needs is almost pointless.
In Matthew 6:1-4 Jesus teaches us what kind of givers we ought to be. To be holy as Jesus is holy, we must care for all of God’s people. We must not perform acts of charity in order to look good in the eyes of others; but out of Christian love, we humbly share blessings with those in need.
Helping those in need can be somewhat intimidating because almsgiving is not about giving what we have left over. If we do give clothes that we no longer wear, they should be gently used, not ones that are falling apart or needing repair. Almsgiving is not about getting rid of junk but reaching deeper than we thought we could go and finding something of worth to give, including even kind words at the right time.
The parable of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44 illustrates the attitude we should have in our almsgiving. The woman gave out of her poverty when others gave out of their wealth. She dutifully gave even when she seemingly had nothing to give.
Sometimes when we do not have much money, we assume we have nothing to give. The widow clearly did not have any money, but she found money to offer. Discuss what you think this story says to us about how God sees our giving. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) tells us that not only are we to give even when we think we don’t have anything, but we are also to give when it may be inconvenient. Surely topping to help the man on the road infringed somewhat on the Samaritan’s schedule, but that is the nature of almsgiving – reaching deeply into our pockets, closets, time, and energy. In the space below, list things that you could give, then discuss your thoughts as a group.
Put into practice
- Make a rule that every time you buy new clothes or shoes, you will give something away that you haven’t worn in a year. Give the clothes or shoes to a needy friend or to a shelter.
- Every time you stay with a friend, go on a trip, visit relatives, or stay in a hotel, put a dollar in a box for each night you sleep away from home. You will realize you always have shelter no matter where you go. When you get enough in your box, buy a sleeping bag and pillow for a homeless shelter. Put a note of encouragement in the sleeping bag.
- Keep a log of how many miles you spend in a car, driving or riding. For every mile traveled, put a nickel in a jar. When the jar is full, buy gas vouchers or bus passes that the homeless shelter can use.
- Every time you do laundry, put a quarter in a jar. When it gets full, buy a bottle of detergent, fabric sheets, and so forth. Take your donation of laundry supplies to a domestic abuse shelter.