What is the significance of the alms which are offered at the death of a person and at what intervals should they be offered?
The meaning of the word “alms”
Other synonyms of the word “alms” are ”charity” and ”memorial”. This shows that the original meaning of the alms was a gift to someone to keep the memory of someone who died. The Bible says that at the death of Saul and Jonathan, David composed a song of mourning and then ordered the people to learn and to sing that song. In this way, David built a monument to Saul and Jonathan, thus he took care that the names and deeds of these great men who served the people of Israel would not be forgotten. It is very sad to see that people who had great merit today are forgotten when they are still alive and more so after they leave for the other world. It is not good to allow it.
Memorial can not help the dead
Unfortunately, some people are very wrong when they think that if they give something for a dead soul, the object passes into the next world and comes to be used by the deceased. In childhood I heard only this about alms and I believed this, too. It is totally wrong. No one in this world can send even a drop of water into the other world, no matter how beautiful intent would they have. Moreover, the Bible tells us about an event when a rich man who lived without fear of God on earth and did not care for Lazarus, a poor man lying at his gate. Here’s how he writes about them:
Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ (Luke 16:22-26)(NASB)
If it was not possible for those from that world to send something to those who are in different places, the more we can not send some help to the dead. And then if the dead are with Christ, they do need nothing, absolutely nothing from us, and if they are in hell, no one can help or transmit them anything. And another thing, there, in hell, they do not need any sweets nor towels, clothes, dishes and other things that people use to give alms, but they need water and they ask it with great despair.
God did not let on rules regarding alms
Nowhere in the Bible it says how often, to whom and what to give. But we learn to be generous and do charity. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)(NASB)
Feel with those who are in need and honor the memory of those who passed away, but do not make idols out of them, because they are people like us all.
Translated by Felicia Rotaru