There’s no doubt that giving alms is a good thing. But can we really be purified by doing it? There are so many ways to give financially: dropping a cheque in the post to a charity, clicking a button on an Internet site, or giving coins to a poor person begging on the street. But no matter how much we give or to how many people, we still can’t buy our way into heaven.
We know that the only thing that can really purify us is the Blood of Christ. Without God’s love flowing through us, even our most considerate actions will fall short. We can give away everything we own, we can even give up our lives as martyrs, but if God isn’t living within us, then something vital is lacking. And that’s what Our Lord asks the Pharisees today: What is the source of your good works? Is it your spirit—or is it mine?
Our Lord is really saying: Give alms from what is inside of you. It’s not only about money. It’s also about the disposition of our hearts. True almsgiving involves turning away from selfish attitudes so that we can give from a generous heart.
Now, of course, it’s always good to give money to the poor and the needy, no matter what is in our hearts; there are many generous atheists in the world. But Christianity is not about external actions. It’s not about doing only what is good or good enough. Rather it’s about lives of ordinary people, like you and me, being transformed by the power of God.