4 occurrences in 4 dictionaries

Reference: Alms


Not found in the Old Testament, but repeatedly in the New. The Mosaic legislation (Le 25:35; De 15:7) tended to promote a spirit of charity, and to prevent the occurrence of destitution among the people. Such passages as these, Ps 41:1; 112:9; Pr 14:31; Isa 10:2; Am 2:7; Jer 5:28; Eze 22:29, would also naturally foster the same benevolent spirit.

In the time of our Lord begging was common (Mr 10:46; Ac 3:2). The Pharisees were very ostentatious in their almsgivings (Mt 6:2). The spirit by which the Christian ought to be actuated in this duty is set forth in 1Jo 3:17. A regard to the state of the poor and needy is enjoined as a Christian duty (Lu 3:11; 6:30; Mt 6:1; Ac 9:36; 10:2,4), a duty which was not neglected by the early Christians (Lu 14:13; Ac 20:35; Ga 2:10; Ro 15:25-27; 1Co 16:1-4). They cared not only for the poor among themselves, but contributed also to the necessities of those at a distance (Ac 11:29; 24:17; 2Co 9:12). Our Lord and his attendants showed an example also in this (Joh 13:29).

In modern times the "poor-laws" have introduced an element which modifies considerably the form in which we may discharge this Christian duty.

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From Greek eleemosyne. The Hebrew "righteousness" in Old Testament and the Greek in many manuscripts of Mt 6:1, stands for ALMS. So Da 4:27, "Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." The poor were entitled to leavings from the produce of the field, the vineyard, and the olive yard (Le 19:9-10; 23:22; De 15:11; 24:19; 26:2-13), the third year's tithing for the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow.

Compare Job 31:17; 29:16; "I was a father to the poor." Ne 8:10; Pr 10:2; 11:4; Es 9:22; Ps 41:1; 112:9. Dorcas (Ac 9:36). Cornelius (Ac 10:2). God prefers such neighborly love to fasting (Isa 58:7). Thirteen receptacles for free offerings were in the women's court of the temple (Mr 12:41-44). Begging was a practice only known after the captivity. In every city there were three collectors who distributed alms of two kinds:

1. Of money collected in the synagogue chest every sabbath for the poor of the city, "the alms of the chest."

2. Of food and money received in a dish, "alms of the dish." The Pharisees gave much alms, but with ostentation, figuratively blowing the trumpet before them (the figure being from the trumpet blowing in religious feasts): Mt 6:1-2. The duty was recognized among Christians as a leading one (Lu 14:13; Ro 15:25-27; Ga 2:10). A laying by for alms in proportion to one's means on every Lord's day is recommended (1Co 16:1-4; Ac 11:29-30; 20:35). Jesus and the twelve, out of their common purse, set the pattern (Joh 13:29). Not the costliness, but the love and self denial, and the proportion the gift bears to one's means, are what God prizes (Mr 12:42-44). Such "come up as a memorial before God" (Ac 9:36; 10:2,4). The giving was not imposed as a matter of constraint, but of bounty, on Christians (Ac 5:4).

The individual was not merged in the community, as in socialism; each freely gave, and distribution was made, not to the lazy who would not work, but to the needy (Ac 2:45; 2Th 3:10). A mendicant order is the very opposite of the Christian system. The Jewish tithe was not imposed, but the principle of proportionate giving having been laid down, the definite proportion is left to each one's faith and love to fix (2Co 9:5-7). Love will hardly give less than legalism. An ecclesiastical order of widowhood attended to charitable ministrations in the early church (1Ti 5:10). The deacons were appointed primarily for the distribution of alms (Acts 6). Alms are "righteousness," not that they justify a man (which Romans 3; 4; 5 prove they do not), but they are the doing that which is right and which our neighbor has a rightful claim upon us for, in the court of God's equity, though not of human law. God gives us means for this very end (Eph 4:28).

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Offerings given to the poor. It was righteous to do so: hence, giving to the poor is called righteousness. Ps 112:9; 2Co 9:9. In the law provision was made for the poor. Ex 23:11; Le 19:10. It is declared that the poor would never cease out of the land; and if not relieved and they cried to the Lord, it would be accounted a sin against those who should have aided them. De 15:7-11. On the other hand, we read that "he that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him again." Pr 19:17. In the N.T. the same thing is enforced. We are exhorted to do good unto all men, especially unto them of the household of faith. Ga 6:10. "He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly . . . . the Lord loveth a cheerful giver;" and whole chapters were written to stir up the saints to give liberally to the poor in Judaea. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

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The duty of alms-giving, especially in kind, consisting chiefly in portions to be left designedly from produce of the field, the vineyard and the oliveyard,

Le 19:9-10; 23:22; De 15:11; 24:19; 26:2-13; Ru 2:2

is strictly enjoined by the law. Every third year also,

De 14:28

each proprietor was directed to share the tithe of his produce with "the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow." The theological estimate of alms-giving among the Jews is indicated in the following passages:

Job 31:17; Pr 10:2; 11:4; Es 9:22; Ps 112:9; Ac 9:36

the case of Dorcas;

Ac 10:2

of Cornelius; to which may be added Tobit 4:10,11; 14:10,11, and Ecclus. 3:30; 40:24. The Pharisees were zealous in almsgiving, but too ostentatious their mode of performance, for which our Lord finds fault with them.

Mt 6:2

The duty of relieving the poor was not neglected by the Christians.

Mt 6:1-4; Lu 14:13; Ac 20:35; Ga 2:10

Regular proportionate giving was expected.

Ac 11:30; Ro 15:25-27; 1Co 16:1-4

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