As Yeshua instructed His disciples on how to seek first to enter the kingdom, He told them to give freely to those in need. He said, “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). A disciple of Yeshua should never feel at liberty to neglect someone asking for help. Even if we can only give a few coins, we should give nonetheless.
Yeshua’s instruction about giving freely and open handedly was not a new commandment. In telling His disciples to give freely to those who asked of them and to lend to those who wanted to borrow from them, Rabbi Yeshua merely paraphrased the Torah’s commandment of giving charity and loans to support the poor:
If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)
Yeshua told His disciples, “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive [repayment], what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. Do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:34-35). According to Talmud, “It is permitted to deceive a poor man who out of pride refuses to accept charity, and to allow him to think that it is a loan you are giving him” (b.Ketubot 67b).
The Didache transmits the teaching of Yeshua, saying, “Give to whoever asks, and do not demand it back, for the Father wants to give of his own gifts to everyone. Contentment awaits one who gives according to the commandment, for he is blameless” (1:5). Nevertheless, the Didache offers some important caveats. Alms should not be squandered on an unworthy person. Instead, the Didache says, “Let your donation sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it” (1:6). A person without legitimate need who takes charity “will give an account as to why he took it and for what purpose. And when he is put into prison, he will be questioned thoroughly about what he has done, and he will not get out from there until he has paid the last penny” (Didache 1:5).