Tertullian on Believers Paying to Bury the Poor

March 26, 2019 — Leave a comment

Tertullian, a Latin Church Father, wrote about how the believers in his day cared for the poor with money that they gave regularly. He specifies that money was used “to support and bury poor people.”

Chapter XXXIX.

I shall at once go on, then, to exhibit the peculiarities of the Christian society, that, as I have refuted the evil charged against it, I may point out its positive good.131 We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This violence God delights in. We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final consummation.132 We assemble to read our sacred writings, if any peculiarity of the times makes either forewarning or reminiscence needful.133 However it be in that respect, with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more stedfast; and no less by inculcations of God’s precepts we confirm good habits. In the same place also exhortations are made, rebukes and sacred censures are administered. For with a great gravity is the work of judging carried on among us, as befits those who feel assured that they are in the sight of God; and you have the most notable example of judgment to come when any one has sinned so grievously as to require his severance from us in prayer, in the congregation and in all sacred intercourse. The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honour not by purchase, but by established character. There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day,134 if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are, as it were, piety’s deposit fund.  For they are not taken thence and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one135another, for themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death.

—ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian; http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.xxxix.html; accessed 3/26/19, 8:05 pm; bold and underlining added to the original

As the followers of Jesus Christ in our day, we should display our love for our brethren by setting aside money in our churches specifically to help with burial costs for our needy brethren in our churches so that as many as possible of them may have a proper burial at the end of their earthly lives.

Rajesh

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