Matt. 6:1-4 (Part 2)

LACTANTIUS: God admonishes us that the doer of justice ought not to be boastful, lest he should appear to have discharged the duties of benevolence, not so much from a desire of obeying the divine commands, as of pleasing men, and should already have the reward of glory which he has aimed at, and should not receive the recompense of that heavenly and divine reward. The Divine Institutes, 7.183.

6:2ff THE DIDACHE: Do not be a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give.  If you have anything at all, through your hands you will give ransom for your sins.  Do not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give;  for you will know who is the good repayer of the hire. Do not turn away from him that is in want, but share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? 7.378.

TERTULLIAN: As they veil their head in presence of heathens, let them at all events in the church conceal their virginity, which they do veil outside the church.  They fear strangers: let them stand in awe of the brethren too; or else let them have the consistent boldness to appear as virgins in the streets as well, as they have the boldness to do in the churches. . . . To what purpose, then, do they thrust their glory out of sight abroad, but expose it in the church? I demand a reason. Is it to please the brethren, or God Himself? If God Himself, He is as capable of beholding whatever is done in secret, as He is just to remunerate what is done for His sole honor. In conclusion, He enjoins us not to trumpet forth any one of those things which will merit reward in His sight, nor get compensation for them from men. On the Veiling of Virgins, 4.36.

CYPRIAN: Be earnest in righteous works, whereby sins may be purged; frequently apply yourself to almsgiving, whereby souls are freed from death. The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.447.

CYPRIAN: We must not labor noisily nor boastfully. In the Gospel according to Matthew: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father, which sees in secret, shall render to you.” Also in the same place: “When you give an alms, do not sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the streets and in the synagogues, that they may be glorified of men. Truly I say to you, they have fulfilled their reward.” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.545.

6:3ff THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH: And those that do good it teaches not to boast, lest they become men-pleasers. For it says: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand does.” Theophilus to Autolycus, 2.115.

IRENAEUS: Because He knew that we would make a good use of our substance which we should possess by receiving it from another, He says, “He that has two coats, let him impart to him that has none; and he that has meat, let him do likewise.”  And, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was naked and you clothed Me.”  And, “When you give your alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” And we are proved to be righteous by whatsoever else we do well, redeeming, as it were, our property from strange hands. But thus do I say, “from strange hands,” not as if the world were not God’s possession, but that we have gifts of this sort, and receive them from others, in the same way as these men [the Israelites] had them from the Egyptians who didn't know God; and by means of these same do we erect in ourselves the tabernacle of God: for God dwells in those who act uprightly, as the Lord says: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they, when you shall be put to flight, may receive you into eternal tabernacles.”  For whatsoever we acquired from unrighteousness when we were heathen, we are proved righteous, when we have become believers, by applying it to the Lord’s advantage.
Against Heresies, 1.504.

6:4 HERMAS: The rich man has much wealth, but in the things of the Lord he is poor, being distracted about his riches, and his confession and intercession with the Lord is very scanty; and even that which he gives is small and weak and has not power above. But when the rich man refreshes the poor, and assists him in his necessities, believing that what he does to the poor man will be able to find its reward with God—because the poor man is rich in intercession and confession, and his intercession has great power with God—then the rich man helps the poor in all things without hesitation; and the poor man, being helped by the rich, intercedes for him, giving thanks to God for him who bestows gifts upon him. And he still continues to interest himself zealously for the poor man, that his wants may be constantly supplied. For he knows that the intercession of the poor man is acceptable and influential with God. Both, accordingly, accomplish their work. The poor man makes intercession; a work in which he is rich, which he received from the Lord, and with which he recompenses the master who helps him. And the rich man, in like manner, unhesitatingly bestows upon the poor man the riches which he received from the Lord. And this is a great work, and acceptable before God, because he understands the object of his wealth, and has given to the poor of the gifts of the Lord, and rightly discharged his service to Him. Among men, however, the elm appears not to produce fruit, and they do not know nor understand that if a drought come, the elm, which contains water, nourishes the vine; and the vine, having an unfailing supply of water, yields double fruit both for itself and for the elm. So also poor men interceding with the Lord on behalf of the rich, increase their riches; and the rich, again, aiding the poor in their necessities, satisfy their souls. Both, therefore, are partners in the righteous work. He who does these things shall not be deserted by God, but shall be enrolled in the books of the living. Blessed are they who have riches, and who understand that they are from the Lord. The Shepherd of Hermas, 2.32.

IRENAEUS: Now we make offering to Him, not as though He stood in need of it, but rendering thanks for His gift, and thus sanctifying what has been created. For even as God does not need our possessions, so do we need to offer something to God; as Solomon says: “He that has pity upon the poor, lends to the Lord.”  For God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose, that He may grant us a reward of His own good things, as our Lord says: “Come, you blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was hungry, and you gave Me food to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me; sick, and you visited Me; in prison, and you came to Me.”  Against Heresies, 1.486.

CYPRIAN: “Alms do deliver from death,”  and not, assuredly, from that death which once the blood of Christ extinguished, and from which the saving grace of baptism and of our Redeemer has delivered us, but from that which subsequently creeps in through sins.
The Epistles of Cyprian, 5.332.

CYPRIAN: Those who pray should not come to God with fruitless or naked prayers. . . . Holy Scripture instructs us, saying, “Prayer is good with fasting and almsgiving.”  For He who will give us in the day of judgment a reward for our labors and alms, is even in this life a merciful hearer of one who comes to Him in prayer associated with good works. Thus, for instance, Cornelius the centurion, when he prayed, had a claim to be heard. For he was in the habit of doing many alms-deeds towards the people, and of ever praying to God. To this man, when he prayed about the ninth hour, appeared an angel bearing testimony to his labors, and saying, “Cornelius, your prayers and your alms are gone up in remembrance before God.”  The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.456.

LACTANTIUS: If a man were seized by some beast, and were to implore the aid of an armed man, whether they think that he ought to be helped or not? They are not so shameless as to deny that that ought to be done which humanity demands and requires. Also, if anyone were surrounded by fire, crushed by the downfall of a building, plunged in the sea, or carried away by a river, would they think it the duty of a man not to assist him? They themselves are not men if they think so; for no one can fail to be liable to dangers of this kind. Yes, truly, they will say that it is the part of a human being, and of a brave man too, to preserve one who was on the point of perishing. If, therefore, in casualties of this nature which imperil the life of man, they allow that it is the part of humanity to give aid, what reason is there why they should think that aid is to be withheld if a man should suffer from hunger, thirst, or cold? But though these things are naturally on an equality with those accidental circumstances, and need one and the same humanity, yet they make a distinction between these things, because they measure all things not by the truth itself, but by present utility. For they hope that those whom they rescue from peril will make a return of the favor to them. But because they do not hope for this in the case of the needy, they think that whatever they bestow on men of this kind is thrown away. . . .

However, we must exercise bounty in giving: nor is this kind of liberality altogether to be rejected; and we must give from our property to suitable persons when they are in need of assistance.” What is the meaning of “suitable?” Assuredly those who are able to restore and give back the favor. . . . For we must not bestow our bounty on suitable objects, but as much as possible on unsuitable objects. For that will be done with justice, piety, and humanity, which you shall do without the hope of any return! The Divine Institutes, 7.174-175.

© OTR 2023