I. Exhortations to help the poor
II. The recompense of helping the poor
III. Making friend with unrighteous mammon
IV. How offerings were made in the early church

I. Exhortations to help the poor (Top)

Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with unrighteousness. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold: For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin. Those that exercise alms and righteousness shall be filled with life:Tobit 12:8-9

But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 1 John 3:17

You shall not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give. "Give to every one that asks you," and you shall know who is the good Recompenser of the reward. Barnabas (A.D. 70-130) ch.19

Give to every one who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him who receives; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless; but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny. And also concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give. Didache (A.D. 80-140) ch. 1

Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give, nor complain when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. Do not turn away from him who is in want; rather, share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own. For if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? Didache (A.D. 80-140) ch.4

And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and accursed: loving vanities, pursuing revenge, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him Who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him who is in want, afflicting him who is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these. Didache (A.D. 80-140) ch.5

Let not the strong neglect the weak; and let the weak respect the strong. Let the rich minister aid to the poor; and let the poor give thanks to God, because He has given him one through whom his wants may be supplied. Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) ch. 38

Almsgiving therefore is a good thing, even as repentance from sin. Fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving than both. And love covers a multitude of sins, but prayer out of a good conscience delivers from death. Blessed is every man that is found full of these. For almsgiving lifts off the burden of sin. Second Clement (A.D. 100) ch.16

Look you to the judgment that comes. You then that have more than enough, seek out them that are hungry, while the tower is still unfinished; for after the tower is finished, you will desire to do good, and will find no place for it. Look you therefore, you that exult in your wealth, lest they that are in want shall moan, and their moaning shall go up unto the Lord, and you with your abundance of good things be shut outside the door of the tower. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.16

Work that which is good, and of your labors, which God gives you, give to all that are in want freely, not questioning to whom you shall give, and to whom you shall not give. Give to all; for to all God desires that there should be given of His own bounties. They then that receive shall render an account to God why they received it, and to what end; for they that receive in distress shall not be judged, but they that receive by false pretence shall pay the penalty. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.20

He then that gives is guiltless; for as he received from the Lord the ministration to perform it, he has performed it in sincerity, by making no distinction to whom to give or not to give. This ministration then, when sincerely performed, becomes glorious in the sight of God. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.20

Therefore, instead of fields buy you souls that are in trouble, as each is able, and visit widows and orphans, and neglect them not; and spend your riches and all your displays, which you received from God, on fields and houses of this kind. For to this end the Master enriched you, that you might perform these ministrations for Him. It is much better to purchase fields [and possessions] and houses of this kind, which you will find in your own city, when you visit it. This lavish expenditure is beautiful and joyous, not bringing sadness or fear, but bringing joy. The expenditure of the heathen then practice not you; for it is not convenient for you the servants of God. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg. 30

I say moreover that every man ought to be rescued from misfortune; for he that has need, and suffers misfortune in his daily life, is in great torment and want. Whosoever therefore rescues from penury a life of this kind, wins great joy for himself. For he who is harassed by misfortune of this sort is afflicted and tortured with equal torment as one who is in chains. For many men on account of calamities of this kind, because they can bear them no longer, lay violent hands on themselves. He then who knows the calamity of a man of this kind and rescues him not, commits great sin, and becomes guilty of the man's blood. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.55

And that we should communicate to the needy, and do nothing for glory, He said, "Give to him that asks, and from him that would borrow turn not away; for if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what new thing do you? even the publicans do this. Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where robbers break through; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.167

For God has given to us, I know well, the liberty of use, but only so far as necessary; and He has determined that the use should be common. And it is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while many are in want. How much more glorious is it to do good to many, than to live sumptuously! How much wiser to spend money on human being, than on jewels and gold! Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.268

We, then, on our journey to the truth, must be unencumbered. "Carry not," said the Lord, "purse, nor money, nor shoes;" that is, possess not wealth, which is only treasured up in a purse; fill not your own stores, as if laying up produce in a bag, but communicate to those who have need. Do not trouble yourselves about horses and servants, who, as bearing burdens when the rich are travelling, are allegorically called shoes. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.281

He, too, while doing the most excellent things, wishes to elude the notice of men, persuading the Lord along with himself that he is living in accordance with the commandments, preferring these things from believing them to exist. "For where any one's mind is, there also is his treasure." He impoverishes himself, in order that he may never overlook a brother who has been brought into affliction, through the perfection that is in love, especially if he know that he will bear want himself easier than his brother. He considers, accordingly, the other's pain his own grief; and if, by contributing from his own indigence in order to do good, he suffer any hardship, he does not fret at this, but augments his beneficence still more. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.545

Spare not perils and toils, that you may purchase here the heavenly kingdom. Why do transparent stones and emeralds delight you so much, and a house that is fuel for fire, or a plaything of time, or the sport of the earthquake, or an occasion for a tyrant's outrage? Aspire to dwell in the heavens, and to reign with God. This kingdom a man imitating God will give you. By receiving a little here, there through all ages He will make you a dweller with Him. Ask that you may receive; strive; fear lest He disgrace you. For He is not commanded to receive, but you to give. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.600

How then does man give these things? For I will give not only to friends, but to the friends of friends. And who is it that is the friend of God? Do not you judge who is worthy or who is unworthy. For it is possible you may be mistaken in your opinion. As in the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the undeserving for the sake of the deserving, than by guarding against those that are less good to fail to meet in with the good. For though sparing, and aiming at testing, who will receive meritoriously or not, it is possible for you to neglect some that are loved by God; the penalty for which is the punishment of eternal fire. But by offering to all in turn that need, you must of necessity by all means find some one of those who have power with God to save. "Judge not, then, that you be not judged. With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again; good measure, pressed and shaken, and running over, shall be given to you." Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.600

If your brother should be weak—I speak of the poor man—do not empty-handed visit such an one as he lies ill. Do good under God; pay your obedience by your money. Thence he shall be restored; or if he should perish, let a poor man be refreshed, who has nothing wherewith to pay you, but the Founder and Author of the world on his behalf. Or if it should displease you to go to the poor man, always hateful, send money, and something whence he may recover himself. And, similarly, if your poor sister lies upon a sick-bed, let your matrons begin to bear her victuals. God Himself cries out, Break your bread to the needy. There is no need to visit with words, but with benefits. It is wicked that your brother should be sick through want of food. Satisfy him not with words. He needs meat and drink. Look upon such assuredly weakened, who are not able to act for themselves. Give to them at once. I pledge my word that fourfold shall be given you by God. Commodianus (A.D. 200) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.4 pg. 217

III. Making friend with unrighteous mammon (Top)

If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? Luke 16:11

For in some cases there follows us a small, and in others a large amount of property, which we have acquired from the mammon of unrighteousness. For from what source do we derive the houses in which we dwell, the garments in which we are clothed, the vessels which we use, and everything else ministering to our every-day life, unless it be from those things which, when we were Gentiles, we acquired by avarice, or received them from our heathen parents, relations, or friends who unrighteous obtained them? Not to mention that even now we acquire such things when we are in the faith. For who is there that sells, and does not wish to make a profit from him who buys? Or who purchases anything, and does not wish to obtain good value from the seller? Or who is there that carries on a trade, and does not do so that he may obtain a livelihood thereby? Irenaeus (A.D. 180) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg. 502-503

God dwells in those who act uprightly, as the Lord says: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they, when you shall be put to flight, may receive you into eternal tabernacles." For whatsoever we acquired from unrighteousness when we were heathen, we are proved righteous, when we have become believers, by applying it to the Lord's advantage. Irenaeus (A.D. 180) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.504

But contrary to what is the case with the rest of men, collect for yourself an unarmed, an unwarlike, a bloodless, a passionless, a stainless host, pious old men, orphans dear to God, widows armed with meekness, men, adorned with love. Obtain with your money such guards, for body and for soul… All these warriors and guards are trusty. No one is idle, no one is useless. One can obtain your pardon from God, another comfort you when sick, another weep and groan in sympathy for you to the Lord of all, another teach some of the things useful for salvation, another admonish with confidence, another counsel with kindness. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.601

"And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," that is to say, of money, even as the steward had done. Now we are all of us aware that money is the instigator of unrighteousness, and the lord of the whole world. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg. 403

Who fears not to lose, finds it not irksome to give. Else how will one, when he has two coats, give the one of them to the naked, unless he be a man likewise to offer to one who takes away his coat his cloak as well? How shall we fashion to us friends from mammon, if we love it so much as not to put up with its loss? We shall perish together with the lost mammon. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg. 712

He said: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” For what the Lord then called “habitations,” the apostle here calls “clothing.” And what He there calls “friends” “of unrighteousness,” the apostle here calls “houses” “dissolved.” As then, when the days of our present life shall fail, those good deeds of beneficence to which we have attained in this unrighteous life, and in this “world” which “lies in wickedness,” will receive our souls; so when this perishable life shall be dissolved, we shall have the habitation which is before the resurrection - that is, our souls shall he with God, until we shall receive the new house which is prepared for us, and which shall never fall. Methodius (A.D. 311) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.6 pg.374

IV. How offerings were made in the early church (Top)

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:34-35

But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel... If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. … And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. …But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him. Didache (A.D. 80-140) ch. 11

Now can a divine Spirit receive money and prophesy? It is not possible for a prophet of God to do this, but the spirit of such prophets is earthly. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.27

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place…. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.186

And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Aristides (2nd century) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.9 pg.277

There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are, as it were, piety's deposit fund. For they are not taken thence and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God's Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg. 46

If, then, any one in our time who has the bag of the Church speaks like Judas on behalf of the poor, but takes away what is put therein, let there be assigned to him the portion along with Judas who did these things; on account of which things eating like a gangrene into his soul, the devil cast it into his heart to betray the Savior. Origen (A.D. 248) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.9 pg.438-439