This week we focus on almsgiving. This word comes from the Greek eleemosyne meaning “mercy” or “pity.” It is charity given to the needy as an expression of gratitude to our Maker for the gift of grace. It usually takes the form of monetary or food donations.
Rev. Robert Burke
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)
It’s mid-November, in the midst of a spiking coronavirus pandemic, as this devotion is being written. Since mid-March, our usual celebrations of Easter, graduations, national holidays and family weddings, baptisms, confirmations and funerals have mostly been virtual. Thanksgiving and Christmas will have a different feel this year.
To slow down the growth of the virus, we are asked to do simple things: wear a face covering, keep ourselves at least 6 feet from others and wash our hands often—acts of mercy, if you will. These actions will help protect us from others and—perhaps even more important—protect others from us!
Almsgiving—one of Lent’s disciplines—is an act of mercy. “Give liberally and be ungrudging in what you do” says our text. We understand that to include food and money for those who are poor and needy. In the context of the text, that’s true.
The pandemic has seriously affected life all over the planet. I would hope we have begun to learn that I am not the center of the universe. Those around me become the object of my continuing love and concern. What I do for them, liberally and ungrudgingly—whether with food or money, or by considering their physical welfare as a primary concern—is done because I respect the whole community.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep my heart open to be liberal and ungrudging in my love and concern for my neighbor in need. Amen