Wednesday 25 July 2012

Almsgiving - what ought Christians to do about it in a society without Biblical poverty?


Not, surely, to scour the world in search of genuine poor to whom we can then give alms.

Not, surely, to import genuine poor in vast numbers such that they can be sustained by coercively-extracted taxes.

Not, surely, to redefine poverty in relativistic rather than absolute terms (so 'the poor' are 'always with us' - but not because there are always poor people, but instead because there is always a bottom ten, or twenty, or whatever, percent of the population as defined in some statistically-measurable definition of wealth.)

Not, surely, to deliberately create and sustain local poverty in order that alms may be given them.

Not, surely, to equate taxation with almsgiving (nor to equate bureacratic organizations with 'good works').


But if not, then what?

The short answer: Christian evangelism.

In a society where there is no real Biblical poverty - almsgiving (and good works) should focus on evangelism.

Specifically, on gaining converts, on deepening the faith of the converted, on supporting good teaching, on making the sacraments available, on spiritual activities (supporting Christian works, monasticism etc).

How best this may done is a matter of judgment, and discussion - but evangelism ought to be the focus, ought it not?



On the definition of Biblical Poverty see: 



Wurmbrand said...

A couple of opportunities for financial giving that might be overlooked: (1) Christian-based or Christian-sympathetic home education organizations, such as the Home School Legal defense Association; (2)the International Dark-Sky Association. The latter is a cause that should make excellent sense to Christians, since the stars are so important in the Bible and Christian heritage as testimonies of the Creator's power and of the beautiful as derived from Him.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - your first suggestion I would place under a broad concept of evangelism - although in the UK home schooling is mostly done by Hippy/ New Age types. The second suggestion would require action to change the British weather, since the main enemy of nocturnal visibility here is clouds rather than light pollution ;-).

Gyan said...

"Not, surely, to scour the world in search of genuine poor "

And why not?
It is no obvious to me.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gyan - there is never any answer to questions phrased as 'why not?'.

There are an infinite number of things which cannot be rejected in principle - the question is whether this is what Christian almsgiving implies.

Was it intended that almsgiving become an indirect matter of responding to emotive TV documentaries and advertizing campaigns?

The ideal is to respond to the needs of neighbours, implicitly a matter of direct, person to person action.

And if almsgiving really were to involve scouring the world in search of real poverty to alleviate, then where does this leave the other duties of a Christian?