The Rewards of Almsgiving
By David Alsobrook
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know Mat your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you (Matthew 6:14).
Almsgiving was widely practiced in ancient Israel and the early church, but we don’t hear a great deal about it today. Almsgiving is the practice of benevolence, a charitable deed on behalf of a needy person.
Alms can be given in the form of cash, food, or other commodities. Even time and service given to aid someone in need are viewed as alms-such as helping a stranded motorist, etc. Widows, orphans, and the
disabled are presented as especially worthy recipients of alms in the Scriptures.
In the Old Testament, the word tsedaqah is translated “righteousness” in our English versions. It is interesting that this word is also used for “almsdeeds,” since there is no precise word for “alms” in the
Hebrew language. According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary, righteousness and almsgiving eventually became interchangeable in Hebrew thought. In fact, almsdeeds are thought to be the meaning of “righteousness” in
these specific passages:
Treasurers of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness [almsgiving] delivers from death (Proverbs 10:2 NKJV).
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness [almsgiving] delivers from death (Proverbs 11:4 NKJV).
Notice that Jesus began His teaching on almsgiving with the phrase, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men” (Matthew 6:1),thus equating righteousness with almsgiving. One of the most righteous things a person can do is to give alms. James expressed it this way:
External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world (James 1:27 AMP).
Three Areas of Giving:
Every Christian should tithe, offer, and give alms. If any of these three areas is lacking, so will our spiritual life be lacking. Alms are often confused with tithes and offerings. Tithing is the practice of returning a tenth of one’s income to the Lord, usually at one’s home church. An offering is a financial gift over and above the tithe, of any amount the Lord lays on the offerer’s heart. Offerings ran be given to the Lord through either the local church or through outreach ministries. (Churches depend on tithes as their primary support base;
outreach ministries are entirely supported by offerings.)
Unlike either tithes or offerings, alms are given directly to the needy person and ideally should be unknown to any but the giver and recipient. (It’s most desirable that the recipient not know his benefactor, but this is not always possible.)
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you (Matthew 6:34).
Sadly, only a small percentage of the Lord’s people regularly tithe. Even fewer give offerings above the tithe. Only a tiny fraction of God’s people give alms. Please keep in mind some important distinctives about these three different types of giving:
Tithing is a tenth given to the local church.
Offerings are above the tithe and can be given to outreach ministries.
Alms are given directly to the needy. By their nature, alms are private and personal. Alms are the essence of charity-giving without thought of return or personal gain. Alms should be performed in Jesus’ name resulting in His glory.
The privacy surrounding alms does not apply to tithes and offerings. Jesus Himself sat over the treasury as the people brought their tithes and offerings to the Lord during public temple worship (see Mark 12:41-
44). When we tithe and offer to the Lord it is not required that we shroud these types of giving in secrecy, although we would never want to make a show of any part of our giving.
Some believers, mistaking alms for tithes and offerings, will not write checks or fill out offering envelopes. They place their tithes and offerings in unmarked envelopes and have someone else drop it in the
collection plate for them. It is not wrong to write checks, beloved, or accept tax receipts for tithes and offerings. Sometimes in giving alms we have to do it in a less than secret manner-although secrecy should always be our goal-but if our heart is right, our almsgift is surely pleasing to the Lord. Christ’s main concern focused on the proper way to give alms: “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them” (Matthew 6:1 ASV).
There is something about human nature that wants to be recognized for benevolent service (Have you ever watched a telethon?). Jesus taught that it is wrong to perform good deeds in anticipation of men’s praise.
Rather, we are to look for our Father’s smile of approval and await His reward for our private deeds of charity. Otherwise, the deed itself may have been beneficial to the needy, but we will not be rewarded by
our Heavenly Father. Notice that Jesus did not say, “But if you give alms.” He said, “But when you give alms” because He expected it to be a regular part of Christian lifestyle.
The religious leaders of that time sounded loud trumpets when assisting any beggar who sat along the roadside. Jesus condemned their hypocritical parade, assuring them that the only reward they had for
their benevolence was already paid in full through the beggars thanks. The attitude of our hearts is the obvious point: motives must be scrutinized. Today, we should ask ourselves “Am I giving to be seen or
thanked by men or is my motive purely to help this needy one and glorify God?”
When our motivation is pure there is great reward laid up in heaven for our acts of benevolence. Temporal gifts can result in eternal treasures. As Jesus concluded His teaching on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting He said, So that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, Mere moth and rust destroy, and Mere thieves break in and steal.
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and Mere thieves do not break in or steal (Matthew 6:18-20).
It is obvious, interpreting it in the context, that the primary way we lay up heavenly treasures is by giving alms, praying, and fasting in the proper ways. Heavenly treasures also result in immediate blessings
as well as eternal ones.
Except when given through a charitable organization, or relief fund specifically designated for the needy, alms are to be as private as possible. It is not always practical to give alms privately, however, and the early church sometimes received public collections for the poor (see Acts II: 2930; 1 Corinthians 16: 1). One type of almsgiving for those of us living in North America, the support of orphans, almost always has to be done through charitable organizations, since most uncared-for orphans live in Third World countries Mere we ourselves cannot go. There are several reputable organizations that give you the name, age, photograph, and other pertinent information about the child you sponsor. This makes it exciting as we can pray for and develop a personal correspondence with the child as he or she grows.
When alms cannot be given secretly or anonymously, we must carefully direct the recipient’s appreciation to the Lord and not to ourselves, for if He had not moved upon our heart we surely would have not
remembered the poor. Since many recipients are not born-again, they are likely to express gratitude to the channel of God’s blessing, rather than to God Himself. This is why great effort should be made to obey Paul’s admonition in all our good deeds: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). Always direct a person’s attention to the Lord, no matter what you are doing.
Proper almsgiving ascends before the throne of God and brings heaven’s smile like nothing else! Consider these Scriptures:
And Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, and he said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard
and your alms have been remembered before God” (Acts 10:30-31).
He who despises his neighbor sins, but happy is he who is gracious to the poor (Proverbs 14:21).
He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed (Proverbs 19:17).
Therefore, 0 king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity (Daniel 4:27).
Jesus Practiced Almsgiving:
Almsgiving in ancient Israel, as I said earlier, was widely practiced. Jesus did not have to instruct His hearers, therefore, on the importance of giving alms, since conscientious Jews regularly practiced
Jesus, of course, habitually practiced almsgiving. His instruction to Judas during the Last Supper (“What you do, do quickly”) was interpreted by some at the table to mean that Jesus’ treasurer was to go, at once, and dispense aid to the poor. They were evidently accustomed to their Masters frequent benevolence, so they paid little attention as Judas went “out into the night” of eternal darkness on his mission of betrayal (see John 13:27-30).
Jesus demonstrated His care for the poor numerous times. He instructed the rich, young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor (see Matthew 19:21; Luke 18:22). He authenticated His ministry to John’s disciples, in part, by informing them that the gospel was being preached to the poor, just as He had announced this as His first objective when He commenced His ministry (see Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18). Christ said we would always have the poor among us and whenever we so desire we may benefit them (see Matthew 26:1 1).
The Example of the Early Church:
The early disciples did not forget this important practice. When James, John and Peter, pillars of the Jerusalem church, examined Paul’s doctrine and ministry they extended the right hand of fellowship to
him, exhorting him in only one area:
They only [made one stipulation], that we were to remember the poor, which very thing I was also eager to do (Galatians 2: 10 AMP).
As I pondered this verse my heart was struck by the phrase “remember the poor.” It’s easy to forget them. With our busy schedules and family demands, the homeless and needy don’t come easily to our minds.
With our own bills and financial obligations, it is easy to push almsgiving to the bottom of the list. I was also impressed by the importance the Jerusalem Pillars placed on ministries supporting the poor! Their unselfishness is a character trait all church leaders should follow.
In my study of this subject I found it amazing that one of the most popular sayings of Jesus, “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” was actually spoken in the context of almsgiving:
In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently thus we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed-makes one
happier and more to be envied-to give than to receive (Acts 20:35 AMP).
Paul, in this verse, was preparing to leave, never to return to Ephesus. In his emotionally charged farewell, the apostle warned the saints of various errors which they were to guard against. On the positive side he exhorted them to assist the weak (rare for the poor) as he had shown them by his example. Paul undergirded his admonition by quoting a popular saying of Jesus which is not found in any of the Gospels, but Mich was widely circulated among the early Christians: “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The popularity of this saying continues to the present, probably due to the striking paradox it presents to our basic fallen nature. Is it not true that even Christians think more about how happy it would make us to receive an unexpected financial blessing than we think about how happy we would be to give unto others? Jesus said it actually makes one happier to give an unexpected financial gift than it does to receive such a gift, and this goes against the grain of natural thinking.
I can personally witness to the truth of the Lord’s statement. There have been countless times during the past two decades of ministry when I was pressed financially and suddenly received an unexpected gift
which greatly lifted my load. The joy at receiving such a blessing was considerable, as you can imagine, and the thanksgiving in my heart flowed freely, but the joy of receiving pales beside the joy of giving!
Almsgiving can result in “chain-reaction blessings” A true story best illustrates what I mean by this term. I rarely tell anyone about any personal alms I give because, as we have seen, Jesus exhorted us to secrecy in almsgiving. As I was working on this article I sensed the Holy Spirit urging me to share with you, for your encouragement, one particular example of almsgiving.
Back in 1985 1 was sending my book on abortion to every church in America-no small task for a ministry the size of ours! I was in prayer one morning asking the Lord to send in tens of thousands of dollars when the Holy Spirit impressed the amount of $79 on my heart for a dear Widow friend whom I will call “Nancy.”
Nancy’s husband had been taken years before and had not left her much in the way of insurance or provision. She was left with two sons to raise and very little money. Nancy was quite successful in this
endeavor as both sons are solid Christian husbands today (one is even a minister).
I was blessed Men God spoke this exact amount to my heart because I knew the Living God was in direct communion with me, not only speaking to me, but hearing my request as well. I finished praying and answered mail for a few hours. Suddenly, I sensed it was time to carry out the Lord’s instruction. I did not want Nancy to be home when I came by, in keeping with Christ’s command that the left hand not know what the right hang is doing, so I dialed her number to see whether or not she was home. (If she was home I was just going to talk with her in a general way and not tell her I had a gift.) My phone call went unanswered, so I knew she was probably gone. I placed four twenties in a plain envelope and headed for her house, which was only eight or nine miles away.
As I was driving a little Voice said, “Did I say $807′ So, I stopped at a convenience store and broke a twenty. When I arrived at her house I hurriedly placed the unmarked envelope between the screen door and front door and left. I drove back to my office with a sense of deep peace and forgot all about it.
A couple of days later I was attending the mid-week service at our home church when Nancy stood up and requested permission to share a testimony. Our pastor nodded his approval. Nancy laughed and cried as
she told everyone how her old car had been needing repairs for some time, so she had taken it in to the garage for service. A Christian mechanic, who knew of her fixed income, had given her a generous “parts
only, no labor” estimate, but had called her with the sad news
midway through the job that the vehicle needed more repairs. He reluctantly told her he had been forced to spend $79 more on parts!
When Nancy hung up the phone she decided to take a walk to a nearby park and have a talk with the Lord. She received the assurance during prayer that her need was met. Unabated joy flooded her soul. She told
everyone in that church service that as she came back home her heart could only sing of the goodness of the Lord.
When Nancy opened her front screen door, out fell the envelope. As she reached down she heard herself say aloud, “Here’s my $79!” She told us that she was not surprised when she counted out the exact amount on the kitchen table, not one dollar more or less.
Nancy Galled the mechanic at once and told him how she had just received the $79 he had requested earlier that morning. She told us that this brother in Christ began to praise God loudly as she related
her blessing. Immediately spontaneous praise broke out in the church service also. The pastor was led by the Spirit to take prayer requests from the others present and asked Nancy to lead us in prayer. It was a
great time! God was glorified! Her testimony caused a chain-reaction of blessings as everyone called out to our gracious God for their needs. a precious liberty was released in the Spirit, and everyone was touched by the goodness of God.
As I witnessed the chain-reaction blessings coming upon that service, I sat in complete, stunned amazement at how God used my small, anonymous gift to bless so many. I remembered how Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). As Nancy told us, “It is not that $79 was such a big need, but that the need was exactly met at the exact time I needed it. How? Only God knows.” God and myself, of course, sitting there drinking it all in, grinning like the cat that swallowed the canary!
By the way, Nancy came to me after the service and exhorted me to trust God for the large financial need she knew I was facing in my ministry at the time. “David, I just read your newsletter and want to encourage
you that if God did it for me, He ran do it for you. Your needs may be bigger, but they are no more a problem for God than mine was.” I looked in the eyes of this dear, older saint and saw such confidence, boldness and assurance in her gaze! My flesh wanted to tell her about my role in her blessing because part of me still wants recognition, but God gave me extra grace so that no one but the Lord was magnified. I
looked into those excited eyes and said, “Thank you. I receive your exhortation. Take my hand and agree with me for every cent I need.” Nancy did so and within a few weeks every bill was paid and 342,000
churches were mailed a copy of The Bible Truth on Abortion, from which thousands of pastors preached to millions of people all across our great land. God is real, after all, isn’t He friends? And almsgiving is one of the surest ways to release His blessings!
Most of the time I do not receive specific amounts during prayer, just a general nudge of what I’m to do. I’ve learned to help the homeless or transients using wisdom, although it takes more effort. Instead of
giving them money, I go and purchase what they request and bring it back to them. In so doing, I do not take the risk that my gift will be misused (some who request aid are unscrupulous, but many are sincere).
As I hand it to them I always say something like, “I give this to you in the name of the Lord. He loves you and wants to help you with all your problems.”
When Was the Last Time You Gave an Almsgift?
Make this a matter of prayer and let God lead you. May you experience the many rewards of almsgiving!
Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in
prison, and you came to Me” (Matthew 25:34-36).
David Alsobrook has been in full-time evangelistic/teaching ministry most of his life. David and his wife, Dianne, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee, and are the proud parents of three beautiful children. He has written 30 books which have been translated into several languages. David’s most recent book, Learning to Love, covers the many sides of God’s love in everyday life. It is available from Sure Word Ministries, P. 0. Box 2305, Brentwood, TN 37024,Phone: (615) 371-1052.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL IS FROM THE MORNINGSTAR MAGAZINE VOL5, #2. THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.