Sharing: It’s About Justice
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
“I really think we should be giving more to the poor,” a good friend once told me over lunch. He was speaking of his own household, not other people’s. “We could do more than we do.” I remember the comment because it expressed a sentiment I don’t often hear. In fact, I don’t recall having a similar conversation with anyone else. Why would this fellow make such a statement? He wasn’t the type to fear some divine punishment for insufficient generosity.
Scripture, both Christian and Jewish, encourages alms giving. The reason: it’s God’s will. When a person does not have enough wealth to live with security and dignity, he or she lacks the blessing of life that God intends for everyone. When we encounter such a person, we have a responsibility to redress the wrong that she is enduring. It’s not a nice but optional activity that we can engage in or opt out of as we choose. Scripture speaks of giving alms as an act of justice: an act demanded simply by the way God creates the world. That is the first reason for giving alms.
The second reason for giving alms is what one might call the spiritual reason. An aware almsgiver acts in a way that reminds him or her of the web of life. Giving to another puts a person in touch with the reality that we’re all intertwined and interdependent for our welfare. Active caring for another puts the giver’s mind and will in harmony with God’s Spirit hence it strengthens his spiritual life. It is a heart-changing action.
We give alms because the balance of the creation demands it; we give alms because doing so unites our wills to the Creator’s and thus fulfills us individually. The wise Christian claims both reasons. In the back of her mind she hears the echo of Jesus’ words: “the first commandment is love the Lord with your whole heart and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”