«Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys»(Lucas 12: 33).
People usually tend to have different opinions about giving alms or helping the poor. There are those who are in favor and others who are against it. Those who refuse to give alms argue that it does not help people get out of a situation but makes them dependent. A Chinese proverb says that «it is better to teach people how to fish than to give them fish.» And there are those who avoid giving alms because they believe that by doing so they fight vices, laziness or networks of organized begging associated to human trafficking. The subject has not been of lesser importance since it became a topic of legislative debate in different countries in the world. In Paraguay, a senator presented a bill to prohibit giving alms in public places. In Sweden, a professor proposed a ban on giving alms to street beggars. In Spain, the bishop of Bilbao recommended not giving alms at the church door. While in Indonesia, severe punishments were put in place for those who give money to beggars.
But will the laws be effective in ridding the street of poverty, vice, and corruption? Do you think that if you stop giving alms people will work more or have fewer vices? Could it be that what we wish to eradicate is the feeling of guilt our selfish heart produces, or the feeling of discomfort when faced with those in need?
I (L) also thought that giving alms meant encouraging vice or laziness. However, I now choose to question my motives rather than the circumstances or the intentions of others. Instead of looking the other way when we see people in need, why don’t we think of helping them and giving them more than they hope for? A woman had this to say after crossing the street to buy needles from a blind couple: «It was just what I needed!» I highly doubt she needed those needles that much, but just like us, she felt the intense need to help.
The Word of God says, «Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor: ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it’, when you have it with you» (Prov. 3:27, 28). Jesus proposed that we sell everything we own to help the needy. We have so many things we do not need!
Let us simultaneously dispel the selfishness of our heart by giving to those who are in need.