Home > Mercy > Almsgiving, Charity–An Essential (Overlooked) Part of Christian Morality. C.S. Lewis

Almsgiving, Charity–An Essential (Overlooked) Part of Christian Morality. C.S. Lewis


Illustration from below book

In the passage where the New Testament says that one must work, it gives as a reason “in order that he may have something to give to those in need.”  Charity—giving to the poor—is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns.  Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to produce the kind of society in which there were no poor to give to.  They may be quite right in saying we ought to produce that kind of society.  But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.  I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.   I am speaking now of “charities” in the common way.  Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbors, or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position.  For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity.  This must often be recognized as a temptation.  Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.

 

CS Lewis

The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings.  New York: Touchstone, 1996.  pp. 143-144.

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