Cyprian of Carthage: The Example of Tobias

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Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:42

“Be rather such a father to your children as was Tobias. Give useful and saving precepts to your pledges, such as he gave to his son; command your children what he also commanded his son, saying: “And now, my son, I command thee, serve God in truth, and do before Him that which pleaseth Him; and command thy sons, that they exercise righteousness and alms, and be mindful of God, and bless His name always.” And again: “All the days of thy life, most dear son, have God in your mind, and be not willing to transgress His commandments. Do righteousness all the days of thy life, and be not willing to walk in the way of iniquity; because if thou deal truly, there will be respect of thy works. Give alms of thy substance, and turn not away thy face from any poor man. So shall it be, that neither shall the face of God be turned away from thee. As thou hast, my son, so do. If thy substance is abundant, give alms of it the more. If thou hast little, communicate of that little. And fear not when thou doest alms; for thou layest up a good reward for thyself against the day of necessity, because that alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into Gehenna. Alms is a good gift to all that give it, in the sight of the most high God.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8. On Works and Alms, 20.

Cyprian gets today’s quotes for his treatise from Tobit, a wisdom literature text (dated to the second or third century B.C) that ranks among the Deuterocanonical books, also known as the Apocrypha.

For Protestant Christians, Tobit is not included in the list of canonical texts, though it finds a home in Jewish Scriptures and in the canon for Roman Catholics and most Orthodox traditions.

Regardless, the content from Tobit, provided Cyprian, and provides us today with a great ancient example of the importance of a father teaching his children about the importance of almsgiving, or giving to the poor.

The advice from Tobias echoes the teaching he would have received from Deuteronomy 15:7-8.

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.”

And it mirrors the words of Jesus in today’s Scripture.

Whether we have a little or a lot, almsgiving is part of our identity as Christ followers. We must let fear of running out ourselves keep us from this practice. It is so vital to our faith, the early church included it as a discipline in Lent.

As Christ fasted for 40 days before His earthly ministry, the early church adopted the same timeframe and determined to practice annually the three disciplines in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount: giving, prayer, and fasting.

Don’t forget to register here to journey with GTP through Lent, starting on Wednesday. To get a head start, download Lent Companion here and think about what you will fast from this Lent to make more space for Jesus.

And thanks again your prayers for our GTP work in Cayman Islands. John Roomes returns to Jamaica today and I return to Denver. Pray for safe and uneventful travel home. And reply here for a copy of the trip report.