November 11, 2022
As we continue to meditate on the Corporal Works of Mercy, it is interesting to note that a good portion of the Church’s teaching about them is contained in the Catechism’s section on the Commandments and, particularly, on the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not steal.” Let us see how almsgiving fits into this category.
Almsgiving — not to mention the other Corporal Works of Mercy — is considered an act of justice as opposed to an act of mere charity. Almsgiving is closely tied to our duty to love our neighbor.
The Catechism teaches that “Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to be able to give to those in need” (CCC #2444). The text continues with a quotation from the Church Father, Saint John Chrysostom, who wrote: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours but theirs.” (CCC #2446)
It should be clarified that almsgiving — a requirement for being a disciple of Christ — is different from tithing. Tithing is offering God the first fruits of our labor — of our earnings — giving a regular percentage of our earnings to God and the Church. It is fulfilling our duty to God and His Church.
Almsgiving, on the other hand, is fulfilling our duty toward our neighbor and our community. That being said, almsgiving is charitable giving above and beyond our regular tithe.
In the Bible, almsgiving is also tied to making amends for sins. In Sirach 3:30 it says: “As water quenches a flaming fire, so almsgiving atones for sins.” Similarly, in the book of Daniel 4:27, King Nebuchadnezzar is told to “Redeem your sins by almsgiving and your iniquity by generosity to the poor.”
Jesus, during one of his meals at a Pharisee’s house, as part of his challenges to his fellow diners, added: “But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you” (Luke 11:41).
With all of this in mind, we come to our weekly challenge: Develop a plan for almsgiving and discuss it with your family/spouse.
It could be placing a jar at the entrance of your home into which everyone in your family contributes spare change and then periodically donates the money to a local crisis pregnancy center or other charitable organization. You could donate the funds from your bottle returns to charity. You could also simply go over your budget with your spouse and decide on an amount to contribute to charity beyond your regular tithe.
Until next week, may God bless you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing