Give out of your inward abundance
April 19, 2023
But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
— Jesus Christ, in Luke 11:41
This puzzling sentence appears in a discussion about the system of ritual washing that the first-century Jews practiced as a matter of tradition. There were detailed procedures for washing this and that which, they believed, protected their spiritual status. These requirements kept them from becoming defiled, or “unclean.” They had developed these traditions themselves over generations. God had not commanded them. (Funny how that happens in religion.)
You think the way you wash dishes is going to keep you on the straight and narrow? No, but instead, “give as alms those things that are within.” You’ll be clean then. No worries.
OK, great! So, what the heck does that mean?
In our language, giving alms is called giving charity. In biblical Hebrew, the word for alms means justice or righteousness, and was used to talk about people with resources freely giving to those who were in need.
By the time the New Testament was written, giving alms had become an act of worship. You give to the poor because of your love for God. Jesus highlighted the self-sacrificial almsgiving of a widow who gave two tiny coins, which was all that she had.
I think we get that. It’s not rocket surgery, as they say.
But now the Lord comes along and says to give as alms “those things that are within.” Giving out of the outward abundance we have is easy to understand. What does it mean to give of the things within?
After puzzling over this and asking a couple of faithful friends how it struck them, this is what I think:
1. It has reference to the internal things God has given you, especially the “fruit of the Spirit” things, as found in Galatians 5:9. Give out of the abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, etc., that you have from the Lord. I don’t mean giving money with love (although that is certainly taught elsewhere). I mean give the actual stuff, the peace and patience themselves, in your dealing with people. Add love and joy to those who lack them.
2. It has reference to more natural gifts and talents you have. If you can’t give money, maybe you can help with a needed skill or ability that you possess. A man in our congregation has made this idea a central, motivating factor in his entire life. Use your gifts to benefit your neighbor.
3. It means that we should give that which God has given us. Particularly, if God has been merciful and kind to us, that’s what we need to pass on — mercy and kindness. It’s a shame when people who claim a Gospel of free grace prove themselves ungracious in their dealings with others.
Do these things and, according to Jesus, all things are ceremonially clean for you. You won’t find yourself banished from his house like a dog with muddy paws. You’ll always be ready to be in God’s presence.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: