Now we are going to get into the area concerning money, alms giving and prosperity. We read in Acts 24.17 that Paul was coming to the festival of Shavuot (Acts 20.16) and was bringing “alms to my nation and to present and offerings (korbanot).” Now, there is a lot of information about alms from many sources. When building the Mishkan the people gave with their hearts. In the Temple, King Joash put out a box, probably at the southern gate or the east side, to repair the Temple. Much was given and you can read about it in 2 Kings 12. The leaders expressed a need, and the people responded. In the synagogues, you did not have a staff. There was one paid employee who was called the “chazzan/ shammash” and he was the “custodian” of the building. There were no “clergy” in a synagogue. The Zekenim, or “elders” were a minimum of three people, with one being the Nasi, or Rosh Knesset (president/spokesman). He was not the “head pastor” and the Zekenim were not paid. They did not necessarily teach, but were able to (1 Tim 3.2). This is the biblical pattern, so you can see how far congregations have fallen. The Zekenim served the congregation because they were true shepherds who loved the sheep and had a call of God on their lives. They were not hirelings like most leaders today who go where the biggest salary is. In a synagogue, there was a similar process to that of the Temple. The Zekenim would come out and say there was a need. A box would be set out and the people gave. They gave alms and “tzedekah.” Alms does not carry the weight of tzedekah. Remember, tzedekah is charity given in the spirit of righteousness and justice, not so you can get a “tax right off.” There were two types of tzedekah, personal and community. Money went to these things, but was not considered a part of tithing. The biblical conception was that wealth is a loan from God and the poor have a certain claim, or a God-given right, to the wealth of the rich, while the rich have a responsibility to share (1 Sam 2.6-8). Deut 15.11 says that there will always be the poor and the reference is to family and brethren. In such a case, the family takes precedence (1 Tim 5.4,16). Giving to the Lord is cursed if you ignore your own kinsmen (Mark 7.10-13). In Deut 15.7 it says “one of your brothers” and this always implied a family member of one who was a part of the nation. However, we are not to honor or favor a man simply because he is poor (Exo 23.3). There are four words for stranger and the Torah tells us how to treat them. A “ger” is someone who chooses to come to the land of Israel and be a part of the Jewish people. He is subject to the same rules at Passover. A “toshav” is a temporary dweller, a migrant worker. The root means “to sit.” A “zar” is simply a stranger and not a part of anything. They are not permitted to partake of Israel’s festivals. A “nokri” is a true foreigner who does not want to be apart of the Jewish people, nor to keep the Torah. He could be charged interest on loans, he was not allowed to be a king or ruler of Israel. These are just a few examples. So, when you read about a stranger, look up the word and see what applied because there are four different types of “stranger” in Hebrew and you need to see how giving applied to each one. In Prov 19.17 it says that if you lend to the poor you are repaid by the Lord. On the other hand, in Prov 21.13 it says that if you ignore family and brethren, God notices you. Christianity teaches, and so does parts of Judaism, that the korbanot took away the sins of the people and the Temple was destroyed because he sent the Messiah. A “new way” replaced the “old.” They saw passages that said a “korban” atoned for the soul. However, in Num 31.48-54 it says that the people were thankful that nobody was killed in battle and so they gave to the Lord from what they had found, “to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.” They were safe and wanted to thank God for it. This was not required but a free-will offering, and it was equated with “atoning” for their soul. Now, what does this mean. Our hearts and giving go together. God counts this as an “atonement” but not in the place of faith. It was seen as a righteous act before God. The animal sacrifices never forgave sin or atoned for a soul, and the giving of rings and amulets didn’t either. It was always the faith of the giver that God saw that made the atonement. In the Temple, the people gave alms as they entered. It was a custom to give alms as you came or left a funeral. You were not to come to Jerusalem “empty-handed.” That is why Paul is doing this in Acts 24.17. Any public fast was an occasion to give alms. Remember, the talmidim thought Judas was going out to give alms because he was the “gabbai tzedekah” or keeper of the charities. Now, the “poor” had to be a valid poor person (1 Tim 5.3-16). The Tanach says you are responsible for knowing who was truly “the poor” or not. There was usually a “list” or what Paul calls “a widow indeed.” Prov 10.2 says that there is a “righteous giving” and an “unrighteous” keeping. The Bible talks about the “good eye” and the “evil eye” and this relates to giving. The Talmud in Bava Batra 4.11 says that when one gives he should give with an un-begrudging eye. How many times have you heard that a church “passed the plate” and 2 Cor 9.6-9 is often quoted. But, the context for that verse is giving to the poor, not to support a church or pay salaries. What has happened is a church collects money for materials to keep teaching, whether it is a building or salaries for the pastor or whatever. But, that is not the responsibility of the person going there. They are to build there own libraries and resources for study. Money should not be going for Sunday schools and denominational literature to teach from. A grown person is getting the same material as a fifteen your old in those classes. You will never get into the “meat” of the Word through an anointed teacher by using these materials. The Bible talks about giving in secret. There was a chamber in the Temple where people could go to give alms, or to take something out if you had a need. Nobody knew which one when you entered and left. It was called the “Chamber of the Ese’oi” (Essenes) or “secluded ones.” Also, there was chamber of the “Ese’oi” in every town (Tosefta, Shekalim 2.16). In Matt 6.1-4 Yeshua says that we should not give alms by “blowing a trumpet” to let everyone know what we are doing and giving the appearance of giving. This is a play on words, because in the Temple alms boxes were shaped like trumpets. This was to keep people from taking money out. However, this money was used for upkeep of the Temple and not for the poor. We were not to let the right hand know what the left hand was doing and alludes to giving alms in secret (Mark 12.41; Luke 21.1-4). In Part 9, we are going to continue with the subject of alms and get into the Jewish Encyclopedia to get a better idea of what this is and begin to discuss what biblical prosperity really is.