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Almsgiving


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#1 Shelley Platt

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 04:08 AM

How does one discern how to give alms? The question sounds simple but I'm having trouble with it. If I am actually saving money with the Fast, which sounds good but is probably debatable, then what do i do with that money? If I am restraining myself from other purchases, a current struggle which just might yield some fruit this year, do I just give away the money without debate or emotion? Do I give it to the Church, or thoughtfully pick out some cause and direct money into that, or wait until something comes along seemingly coincidentally and gets my attention? Do I give sacrificially but ignore 8 family birthdays that fall during Great Lent?
Fasting seems so much easier than almsgiving because everyone has a lot to offer in terms of rules, advice and experience! Does anyone have a good recipe for almsgiving?
Shelley

#2 Theodora E.

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 04:15 AM

What you do with the money is rather simple. Pick a soup kitchen or food pantry in your area, for example. Either write a check or do grocery shopping yourself for items to donate. My parish supports our township's food pantry - we always have a large Rubbermaid trash barrel in the narthex that we use for collecting grocery donations. Someone runs it over to the food pantry as needed. I bought some items for this. The township also has a "Needy Family Fund" that helps people with emergency funds for rent, medical, utilities, etc. I've donated to this as well this Lent.

You're supposed to give the money to the poor - and that's on top of your regular giving to your parish. I've never heard of people neglecting birthdays, just because they fall during Lent. Yes, you might postpone the celebration until after Pascha, but I still celebrate with a favorite Lenten meal (Middle Eastern!) and a few friends still gave me gifts.

Essentially, the money you save from not eating meat and dairy is what you're supposed to donate to the poor. If you can throw additional on top of that, even better!

#3 John Gfoeller

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 11:40 AM

How does one discern how to give alms? The question sounds simple but I'm having trouble with it. If I am actually saving money with the Fast, which sounds good but is probably debatable, then what do i do with that money? If I am restraining myself from other purchases, a current struggle which just might yield some fruit this year, do I just give away the money without debate or emotion? Do I give it to the Church, or thoughtfully pick out some cause and direct money into that, or wait until something comes along seemingly coincidentally and gets my attention? Do I give sacrificially but ignore 8 family birthdays that fall during Great Lent?
Fasting seems so much easier than almsgiving because everyone has a lot to offer in terms of rules, advice and experience! Does anyone have a good recipe for almsgiving?
Shelley



Hello Shelley,

I am a sinner and the first among sinners, and I don't have a recipe for almsgiving. But I do have an idea. In a quiet moment, ask yourself how you spend your time . . .

-- John

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 12:29 PM

How does one discern how to give alms? The question sounds simple but I'm having trouble with it. If I am actually saving money with the Fast, which sounds good but is probably debatable, then what do i do with that money? If I am restraining myself from other purchases, a current struggle which just might yield some fruit this year, do I just give away the money without debate or emotion? Do I give it to the Church, or thoughtfully pick out some cause and direct money into that, or wait until something comes along seemingly coincidentally and gets my attention? Do I give sacrificially but ignore 8 family birthdays that fall during Great Lent?
Fasting seems so much easier than almsgiving because everyone has a lot to offer in terms of rules, advice and experience! Does anyone have a good recipe for almsgiving?
Shelley


I'm not sure there's any one rule to almsgiving. There are the various church and parish needs which come along as appeals or donations: these are important. Social appeals can also be very important especially during times of disaster (eg the spontaneous appeals for the Tsunami). For this, one needs to have a sense of the proportion of one's income/resources that one can give. One dollar is as worthy as one thousand if this is all that we can manage.

Many come to our church for help because we live in an area where there are many low income families, single mothers, and guys on the street. I often recommend giving to street people. I think it is important to give to those who are obviously the worse for wear and to give at times without calculating how the money is going to be used. We have a basic policy though of rationing the money we give. But lately this got out of hand- one Sunday as I was preparing the proskomedia (so my back was to the side doors into the altar) one of our 'regulars' stumbled into the altar, very much the worse for wear, and aggressively demanding money. After leading him outside the altar I realized I had to bar the street people for the foreseeable future. Word was getting around so much through the street community that more and more people were coming for money- too much for us to handle and frankly some who showed up caused me concern.

In any case after putting a ban on this kind of giving, last Sunday as I was doing proskomedia I could hear someone knocking on the back apartment door. I was almost certain this was someone asking for money so I waited. A few minutes later a street guy entered the church and instead of the regular 'can you give me...' he said, 'I want to give you something.' It was a piece of bannock (Indian bread). This struck me so much that I ended up giving him something for his efforts. Later I thought it may have been an angel.

So there's never an absolute rule for how to give.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#5 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 01:48 PM

I've been trying to discipline myself to be generous with others. One of the things that impressed me as I converted to Orthodoxy was alms, particularly to beggars. More than just the money, the opportunity to see another human being as beloved of God and to treat them humanely opened my heart in an unexpected way.

One of the ways I do this is to never refuse a request (though I'll admit I'm not handing out $100 bills). However, something strange happened last night. Our supermarket is starting a generic Americans with disabilities campaign. And they have even gone so far as to make you chose whether or not to donate every time you use the card machine to check out.

As I mentioned in another thread, I do not like these large charity organizations, without getting off topic...

Anyway, I started to think about my commitment to give alms to those who asked. What should I do about such store campaigns? Or the many TV commercials or questionable mail solicitations? Somehow I feel like I'm hurting myself by not giving, but somehow this isn't the same thing has stopping to help someone on the street get a meal or working with the local battered women's shelter.

#6 Irene

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 10:11 AM

"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:35-40

Give alms or give time, give with out expecting anything in return and you do well.

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 12:14 PM

I've been trying to discipline myself to be generous with others. One of the things that impressed me as I converted to Orthodoxy was alms, particularly to beggars. More than just the money, the opportunity to see another human being as beloved of God and to treat them humanely opened my heart in an unexpected way.

One of the ways I do this is to never refuse a request (though I'll admit I'm not handing out $100 bills). However, something strange happened last night. Our supermarket is starting a generic Americans with disabilities campaign. And they have even gone so far as to make you chose whether or not to donate every time you use the card machine to check out.

As I mentioned in another thread, I do not like these large charity organizations, without getting off topic...

Anyway, I started to think about my commitment to give alms to those who asked. What should I do about such store campaigns? Or the many TV commercials or questionable mail solicitations? Somehow I feel like I'm hurting myself by not giving, but somehow this isn't the same thing has stopping to help someone on the street get a meal or working with the local battered women's shelter.


Giving away treasures in this life builds up treasure in Heaven. I don't know that it matters HOW you do it, but I suspect the more you are able to give away now means the more you will be blessed. How blessed can you stand to be? In a sense it is just like investing, the returns might simply be less "tangible" but no less real. I would have to say "go with your gut", give to those causes that "feel right" and give sacrificially to receive maximum benefit. I don't mean "give til it hurts", but I guess it depends on your "pain" threshold?

Herman the Pooh

#8 Peter S.

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 01:53 PM

Many times a week I pass by different kinds of beggars. mostly from Moldavia i think. Some of them play music and I ve heard they are a part of an organization, criminal in a way. but sometimes I give anyway, I dont know how much is going to their own use.. Maybe its better to give to norwegians who use drugs.., but i dont like that either. But I feel guilt for not giving. Maybe its a burden God has given us. It is for me. Mostly I give them a smile instead.

I meet one who slept on the street because of bad memories at home, he had written that on a paper. I was more happy to give to him. Maybe that is not a point to Jesus if I am more happy after giving to him in accordance of giving alms.

Peter

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 02:30 PM

It's interesting how cultural all of this is. Here in our part of the city and actually in this part of Canada there is a very well known kind of poverty. As part of this there are different categories: 'guys on the street', single mother households, the working poor. Each has its own character and way of receiving charity but also of abusing it. This is precisely the needle's eye for giving that we each try to determine.

In any case when you mention Moldova I recall the situation in Russia which is so different from here. There poverty is much more obvious amidst the attempt at opulence. But I found most of these alcohol soaked beggars much more respectful than here. It's also quite embarrassing to realize how little the normal beggar asks for or expects in terms of money. Here it would be the equivalent of a few pennies.

There are also the 'beggar enterprises' lined up outside of some monasteries. These are organized by the local rich hauncho and then taken to a profitable location. Each then gets a cut of the earnings.

Also it is very common to see monasteries and different religious organizations asking for donations in the metro or at various religious locations. They have cans hanging from their necks with the name of the monastery/organization they represent. Some say that not everyone asking for donations is trustworthy. But there are some that clearly are very trustworthy - it isn't an easy obedience for a nun in a crowded metro (you haven't seen a real crowd until you've been in a Moscow metro-the last time we were there a group of about ten of us held each other's hands as a living chain so that we wouldn't get lost).

Of course you're likely to give to each of these in quite a different way.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#10 Paul Cowan

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 02:34 PM

Here in Houston, we have beggars galore. Some are organized, some are independantly wealthy, most are addicts of one sort or another, many are mentally unstable. The local United Way, says not to give money but to give the number to their Help Line and they will in turn get them help if they truly want/need it. MOst times we can't tell who is in need and who is scamming us. When a "homeless" person comes up to my car window with his cardboard sign, who am I to judge whether he is for real or not. God be his judge. I give what I have with me and the Help Line number.

For those that know what Wal Mart is, I have considered buying 20 or so $1.00 gift cards to keep in my car and give one to them as they ask. Wal Marts are everywhere and if they need it, they can use the card rather than take my dollar to the local liquor store. Though they can also buy beer at Wal Mart.

Paul

#11 Nina

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 03:05 PM

Who cares what they do with the money?! That will be their business with God. Our business -if we can- is: Matthew 5:42

Read all the saints' lives who are distinguished for their charity and try to emulate them. Also look how they treat beggars: St. John the Merciful was approached 3 times in matter of minutes from a beggar and he always gave him (although the beggar and the companions of the Saint thought he was not bright enough to understand the "trickery"); St. Spirydon helped the thieves steal from the Saint's flock! Thieves are not beggars even - and we often allude that many beggars are thieves. So dear ones when you can, of course, just give.

#12 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 03:10 PM

I do not run into beggars specifically every day (though it seems even my coworkers could use some donuts once in a while). There seems to me a need for kindness, if not cash, everywhere I go.

I cannot say if I would be this way if I had to pass beggars daily in front of my workplace. But since I don't I figure I should do as much as God has put in front of me and at least give everyone who asks enough for a cheap meal.

The problem comes with the endless professional solicitations. They are both impersonal and dubious. Many of them concern 'causes' and not simply easing the suffering of the poor or in prison.

Speaking of in prison, this has been most on my mind lately. Americans despise criminals in a way I think is spiritually dangerous. We incarcerate 5 times as many people as the world wide average. The "land of the free" has a new untouchable class.

#13 Nina

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 03:27 PM

The problem comes with the endless professional solicitations. They are both impersonal and dubious. Many of them concern 'causes' and not simply easing the suffering of the poor or in prison.


Yes I agree here very much. I also often do not like when they call our home phone and start asking to donate in this or that fund or for different causes. Or while checking out at the grocery store in US they ask me to donate money to help the women in Paraguay, to set up private businesses! I do not like that.

#14 Father David Moser

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 05:03 PM

When considering almsgiving, especially as a spiritual duty, there should be some kind of personal contact between giver and recipient (except for the cases of anonymous giving where the personal element is still there for the giver - i.e. he knows the one who is receiving his gift - but not for the recipient, who does not know who his benefactor is.) Thus "institutional giving", which is sometimes a good thing as it allows many people to pool their giving toward a single large need, is not always the best - but rather person to person giving is necessary. Almsgiving should involve much more than just "throwing money at" a need, but should also involve our time and compassion and prayer (which is difficult without a "personal connection"). Yes, we should give to allieviate the needs of those caught in a crisis which is larger than ourselves (thus the necessity of institutional giving) but we should more importantly maintain some kind of personal "touch" with those to whom we give. In the lives of the saints the recipient would always offer prayers for the salvation of his benefactor. How is this possible when the benefactor is an institution? Almsgiving should be personal.

Fr David Moser

#15 Nina

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 05:50 PM

When considering almsgiving, especially as a spiritual duty, there should be some kind of personal contact between giver and recipient (except for the cases of anonymous giving where the personal element is still there for the giver - i.e. he knows the one who is receiving his gift - but not for the recipient, who does not know who his benefactor is.) Thus "institutional giving", which is sometimes a good thing as it allows many people to pool their giving toward a single large need, is not always the best - but rather person to person giving is necessary. Almsgiving should involve much more than just "throwing money at" a need, but should also involve our time and compassion and prayer (which is difficult without a "personal connection"). Yes, we should give to allieviate the needs of those caught in a crisis which is larger than ourselves (thus the necessity of institutional giving) but we should more importantly maintain some kind of personal "touch" with those to whom we give. In the lives of the saints the recipient would always offer prayers for the salvation of his benefactor. How is this possible when the benefactor is an institution? Almsgiving should be personal.

Fr David Moser


Father David I couldn't agree more. Thank you for saying it so eloquently what I was struggling to pronounce. Your blessings.

#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 06:09 PM

This question arose this afternoon. We went to the Afonskii Podvorie (metochion of St Panteleimon's Monastery, Mt Athos) for the evening service. On previous visits there has been a crowd of drunks at the gate of the monastery begging. Something must have happened because today there were only two. Visitors are not encouraged to give and the monastery directs them to some centre. Generally on the streets of Moscow I see fewer beggars than on previous visits but there are some still. My wife seems to have some sense of to whom to give something and who not. I don't know how right this is. There's one old woman we see from time to time at our metro station and we give her something. She says she was in the camps and berates people generally for not being faithful. 'We prayed when it was not allowed. Now it is allowed and people don't pray', she says.

#17 Peter S.

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 07:01 PM

I pray some times for a beggar when I pass by when I give and dont give. When I dont give the guilt increases for each time i dont give. The point of giving alms is love, you know that. The Wal Mart cards seems like an excellent idea, better than giving money. Christ has given us the ability to use our brains. I have been to Wal mar once, it was big. : ) Isnt it better that they have a piece of bread and water, instead of a beer? Of course. And I dont like the capitalists behind some of the beggars. Still I give. Maybe we shouldnt get too rational when its about alms and love.

When St. Spyridon helped the thieves it was fantastic. So funny, and something to think about. Everything belongs to Christ. Didnt the thieves repent and became christians? I remember I was told that story long time ago.

Peter

#18 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 07:26 PM

We give money every so often to our spiritual father and he then gives it to those who need it. We do not know to whom the money has gone and the people who have received it do not know that it is from us.

Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. I feel comfortable with this method because it is anonymous and I know for certain that every last cent is going to someone who needs it.

People who are in need through no fault of their own feel comfortable with a priest.

Effie

#19 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 07:36 PM

We have been told very clearly how to act in this matter.

(Mat 6:1-21) Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. {2} Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {3} But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: {4} That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Effie

#20 Peter S.

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 07:43 PM

We give money every so often to our spiritual father and he then gives it to those who need it. We do not know to whom the money has gone and the people who have received it do not know that it is from us.

Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. I feel comfortable with this method because it is anonymous and I know for certain that every last cent is going to someone who needs it.

People who are in need through no fault of their own feel comfortable with a priest.

Effie


You are lucky who can do it that way Effie.




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