Generosity, particularly in the form of almsgiving, has traditionally been viewed as a virtue and a necessary spiritual discipline in the life of the believer. As German Reformed theologian Konrad Pellikan (1478-1556) argues in this excerpt from his commentary on the entire Bible, this practice is particularly for those who have means to care for the requirements and comfort of those in need, rather than to indulge in a life of luxury and excess. This, he continues, is how love is worked out under the law of faith.
The Blessing of Giving
He sings that such is a true worshiper of God among the poor. For it is not someone who lays up treasures that would perish and then reposes, keeping these excesses for their own, and only sometimes, with clenched teeth, disperses alms to the needy. This one dispenses his possessions according to the good pleasure of God and according to the comfort of the indigent, by far more suitably than if they would sell all their own wealth and spend it once in laziness or miserliness or in squandering of their own things: something Christ never willed, nor did Paul teach, nor would be useful even to the world or the universal church. In the primitive church there was a special reason that we never read that it was usefully practiced among the rest. It was the mutual assistance of the elect and lavished the fruit of their works, not to offer to powerful liars the opportunity for being lazy and slipping into vices. The one who thus dispenses according to love and the law of faith dispenses in the custom of the saints their wealth to the needy, to those serving the gospel, and not in the least to the lazy. “His righteousness remains forever.” One whom no one could accuse of anything. “His horn will be exalted in glory.” The grace of God will be made evident in him and he will be worthily exalted in praise by the pious and lovers of virtue; by these also, to those whom he willed to confer benefits and likewise he will be blessed with the elect in the kingdom of God.