The Rabbis of old taught, "He who gives alms in secret is greater than Moses."
They also said that the almsgiving which saves from death is "when the recipient does not know from whom he gets it, and when the giver does not know to whom he gives it."
There was one Rabbi, when he desired to give alms, dropped the money behind him, so that he would not see who picked it up.
There was one particular custom connected with the Temple.
In the Temple, there was a room called The Chamber of the Silent. People who wished to make atonement for some sin placed money there, and the poor people from good families who had suffered set-backs were secretly helped by this type of almsgiving.1
Almsgiving is repeatedly urged in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (Leviticus 19:9, 10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 15:11; 24:19; Matthew 6:2).
The Talmud went so far as to equate "righteousness" with almsgiving.
The Greek word is derived from "heleos" pity or mercy, and came to mean manifestations of pity, namely, benefactions to the needy – "an almes-deede" as it is translated in the Rheims version of the New Testament. It carries the idea of merciful feeling toward the indigent.2
When the great novelist, Flannery O'Connor, was asked by one of her correspondents how he could experience God's love, her reply was, "Give alms." She meant do something for the poor and the needy. According to James 1:27 and 2:17, the giving of alms is one of the most telling facts of a true walk with God.3
However, we are to use wisdom.
The Didache is a book written by the second-century church fathers. On the subject of charity, these wise men said to let your alms sweat in your palms until you see where your gift is going.4
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1. William Barclay, The Gospel Of Matthew, Volume 1 (Chapters 1 to 10), The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA., Copyright 1975, pp. 187 – 188.
2. Adult Teacher Supplement, First Quarter, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, MO., Copyright 1967, p. 26.
3. Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, The Faith Given Once For All, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI., Copyright 2008, p. 164.
4. R. C. Sproul, Before The Face Of God, Ligonier Ministries, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI., Copyright 1993, p. 150.