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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Alms

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From Greek eleemosyne . The Hebrew "righteousness" in Old Testament and the Greek in many manuscripts of Matthew 6:1, stands for ALMS. So Daniel 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 (Leviticus 19:9-10; Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 15:11; Deuteronomy 24:19; Deuteronomy 26:2-13), the third year's tithing for the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow.

Compare Job 31:17; Job 29:16; "I was a father to the poor." Nehemiah 8:10; Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 11:4; Esther 9:22; Psalms 41:1; Psalms 112:9. Dorcas (Acts 9:36). Cornelius (Acts 10:2). God prefers such neighborly love to fasting (Isaiah 58:7). Thirteen receptacles for free offerings were in the women's court of the temple (Mark 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): Matthew 6:1-2. The duty was recognized among Christians as a leading one (Luke 14:13; Romans 15:25-27; Galatians 2:10). A laying by for alms in proportion to one's means on every Lord's day is recommended (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Acts 11:29-30; Acts 20:35). Jesus and the twelve, out of their common purse, set the pattern (John 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 (Mark 12:42-44). Such "come up as a memorial before God" (Acts 9:36; Acts 10:2; Acts 10:4). The giving was not imposed as a matter of constraint, but of bounty, on Christians (Acts 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 (Acts 2:45; 2 Thessalonians 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 (2 Corinthians 9:5-7). Love will hardly give less than legalism. An ecclesiastical order of widowhood attended to charitable ministrations in the early church (1 Timothy 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 (Ephesians 4:28).


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Alms'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/a/alms.html. 1949.

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