Clement of Alexandria: Supplying needs

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For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

“It is right to supply needs, but it is not well to support laziness.”

Clement of Alexandria (c. 195) as recounted in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, ed. by David W. Bercot (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998) 9.

When we think about almsgiving, we should see ourselves as suppliers of those who either can’t work or whose work still leaves them in a place of need. We should not, however, serve as enablers to those who can work but are relying on handouts from others.

In other words, our resources should go to the faithful who have real needs. It’s why in the parable of the minas the Master takes the one mina from the “wicked” (the biblical term for “lazy and unfaithful”) servant and gives it to the one with ten minas (cf. Luke 19:11-27).

This Lent, when you think of giving to someone in need, give to someone who is working diligently and yet has lack. If you know a person who is lazy, don’t give them a handout, but rather a hand up. Encourage them to put their gifts and resources to work.

God blesses us with surplus to supply needs which results in praise to God. We do well not by keeping them for ourselves or by giving them to lazy people, but by resourcing those who can’t work or whose faithful efforts leave them in a place of need. To such as these, give alms richly this Lent (and in life after Lent).