Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

The two things were originally closely connected. Men fasted in order to give to others the savings which resulted from a reduced expenditure on personal needs. “Lent savings” represent a modern revival of this idea. The essence of Christian almsgiving is that it should be the expression of Christian charity or love: and love means the willingness to serve others, at cost to self. Gifts and subscriptions which represent merely the largess of a man’s superfluity and cost nothing in the way of personal self-denial are not really in this sense almsgiving. The Gospel prefers the widow’s mite to the rich man’s large but not really generous contribution, in cases where the larger sum represents the lesser personal cost.

It was the rule of the ancient Jewish Law that a man should give away a tenth part of what he possessed, but this ought not to be adopted under modern conditions as a literal precept. The poor cannot afford to spare so large a fraction of their incomes. The wealthy can in many cases give away a much larger proportion without feeling particularly stinted. It is the duty of every man whose income is above the line of actual poverty (_i.e. exceeds what is necessary for the literal subsistence in food, shelter, and clothing of himself and those dependent upon him for support) to consider with his own conscience before GOD what proportion should be set aside for educational and other purposes, and what proportion should be directly given away in charity. Anonymous subscriptions are the best, and the amount available for distribution should be carefully allocated as between rival claims. Details, of course, must vary: but a certain proportion should in any case be given for the purposes of directly religious work at home and abroad. A man who really believes in the universality of the Gospel will in particular subscribe to the full extent of his capacity to foreign missions.

With regard to fasting it has been suggested in an earlier chapter of this book that there should be some personal rule of self-denial in a man’s life. A table of fasts and days of abstinence is printed in the Prayer-book, though the Church of England does not normally prescribe in detail how such days are to be observed. It is worth remarking that the spirit is not necessarily in contradiction to the letter; but meticulous outward observances are not of the essence of Christianity, nor is it desirable to obtrude such observances in an ostentatious manner in mixed society. The rule of the Gospel with regard both to almsgiving and to fasting is that such things should be done in secret. It is usual, however, for Church people, at least in normal circumstances, to pay some special regard to the observance of Lent, and particularly of Holy Week, as a season of fasting and self-denial, and also (with a less degree of strictness) to the four weeks of Advent as leading up to Christmas. It is a good thing to enter into the observance of these and other seasons of the Christian year so far as circumstances permit: and at the least to make a point, if it is at all possible, of reading during Lent and Advent a more or less serious book of a religious or theological kind, or in other ways endeavouring to deepen, by some special practice or observance, the inward devotional life. The Sunday Collects, Epistles, and Gospels are of course appointed with special reference to the significance of the various seasons in the Church’s year, and provide suitable passages for private meditation at such times. Advantage may also be taken of the special courses of sermons and additional services provided in almost every parish during the seasons of Lent and Advent. Loyalty to the Brotherhood in matters even of minor observance is a great principle to be borne in mind in this connexion. There is usually a method in the Church’s madness, and her prescriptions and counsels are the product of a very considerable empirical acquaintance with the workings of the human soul.

The End


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting  • 

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