I have begun to contrast the Christian views of wealth and the need for the rich to help the poor with typical pagan views that placed almost no emphasis on helping those in need. It is impossible to understand the Christian emphasis on almsgiving without situating it in its originating context – the Jewish tradition, going all the way back in the oldest Scriptures of Israel.
Unlike the pagan tradition, the Hebrew Bible consistently pronounces God’s concern for the poor and repeatedly instructs those who have means to assist them. Thus in the Torah itself: “Give liberally and be ungrudging […], for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’” (Deut. 15:9-11). Many of the most emphatic passages occur, as one might expect, in the prophets:
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